THE Philippine Heart Association (PHA) said that Filipinos who suffer from stroke and heart conditions are of working age, contrary to the belief that these cardiovascular diseases only hit the elderly.
The PHA linked the incidence of these diseases to the high intake of trans fatty acids (TFA), which increase LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad”) cholesterol, and a sedentary lifestyle.
The mean age of Filipinos who have heart attacks or myocardial infarctions is between 50 to 55 years old, based on an unpublished study conducted from 2011 to 2014 in 14 hospitals.
Local data is difficult to come by, said Dr. Luigi S. Segundo, PHA director, at a Sept. 29 event organized by Trans Fat Free Philippines, which advocates for the elimination of trans fat in the Filipino diet.
Dr. Segundo added that patients in their 30s are not uncommon.
“A lot of heart attack patients will have procedures. A lot will have some form of permanent disability — and all will require medications for life,” he said. “Mahirap ’yun. Magastos ’yun. … Mas maganda ang prevention [That’s hard. That’s expensive. … Prevention is better].”
In Denmark, it took 20 years to reduce deaths by 50%; in New York, meanwhile, it took three years to reduce hospitalizations from heart attacks by 7%.
“We have to start now,” he said in the vernacular.
Wide-scale elimination of TFA from diets requires multisectoral work, said Dr. John Juliard L. Go, national professional officer of the World Health Organization Philippines.
“Industrially produced TFA causes heart disease and deaths, and has no known health benefit,” he said at the same event. “TFA can be replaced with healthier fats and oils without changing the taste and cost of food.”
The Anti-Trans Fat Bill (or House Bill No. 1485), which seeks to prohibit trans-fat in processed and pre-packaged foods, made it to the first reading in the House of Representatives on Aug. 1.
Counterpart measures have also been filed in the Senate by Senators Maria Lourdes Binay-Angeles, Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros-Baraquel, Ramon B. Revilla, Jr., and Joel J. Villanueva. All are pending in their respective Committees on Health.
“There will be training to help the food industry to comply with this bill, … and information drives to educate Filipinos about harmful effects of TFA,” said Laguna Rep. Maria Rene Ann Lourdes G. Matibag and sponsor of House Bill No. 1485.
While the Department of Health last year issued an administrative order to eliminate industrially produced TFA in the food supply by 2023, Ma. Lourdes A. Vega, executive director of the Nutrition Foundation of the Philippines, Inc., said that entrenching it into law would be better. — Patricia B. Mirasol