Interview with Dr. Bashir Hanif, Executive & Medical Director at Tabba Heart Institute.

“Prevention is the most important element when it comes to heart disease. Brisk walking of 40 minutes five days a week reduces the risk of heart disease by 40%. No other medicine or intervention can do that.”

An alarming statistic is on the rise in Pakistan, a country with a population of approximately 229.5 million, as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) become the leading cause of death. What’s further alarming is that most CVD deaths are occurring commonly in the age group of 20s to 30s.

In an exclusive interview with the Roche Dia:logue magazine, Dr. Bashir Hanif, Executive & Medical Director at Tabba Heart Institute, and an expert cardiologist with 23 years of experience, states:

“All over the world, cardiovascular diseases have been the number one cause of death. Initially, it was considered as – a kind of a western or economically affluent countries disease, but now even middle to low-income countries have two thirds of deaths caused by CVDs. Similarly, in Pakistan, it has become the primary cause of death.”

The most concerning fact is the minimal medical attention given in South Asia, particularly in Pakistan. Due to a sedentary lifestyle and other risk factors such as heavy smoking, deaths from CVDs are now occurring at regular intervals.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there has been a staggering number of heart attacks, heart failures and other cardiac ailments, resulting in a bewildering 46 deaths with every passing hour. [1]

Dr. Hanif adds that people are generally unaware of the CVD-related risks involved with smoking, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity. Walking for 40 minutes regularly can substantially reduce the chances of having heart diseases.

As a specialty Cardiac Care Hospital providing services at par with international standards, Tabba Heart Institute is addressing all four areas to deliver the best and most affordable care to patients.

In recent years, Pakistan’s health trajectory has changed and more people are getting diagnosed with CVDs. Cardiovascular care, in general, is expensive and requires long-term medication and monitoring which poses a challenge, considering the economic conditions in the country. The study shows that in Pakistan, the total health expenditure, as a percentage of the GDP, was 1.1% in 2018–2019. The public sector bears 32% of health expenditures, while 64% is borne by patients out of pocket (OOP) payments that may lead to catastrophic consequences for their families. [2]

“CVD not only affect the patient but also impacts their families causing a lifelong disability, both economically and physically”, says Dr. Hanif.

Unlike international best practices, database of previous patients is not generally maintained in Pakistan. Organizations like Tabba Heart Institute voluntarily provide data to the American College of Cardiology online to get affiliated with the international medical community.

Unlike other ailments, CVDs are not curable but early detection and care can help their prevention. Dr. Hanif states, “We often say that prevention is better than cure. I believe it goes well for heart diseases. If you take care of yourself from the start, you can lead a healthy life.”

On the bright side, constant efforts are being made by organizations, physicians and healthcare professionals to raise awareness through campaigns and proper guidance by healthcare providers and community managers. If the risk factors can be gauged at an earlier stage, then effective preventive intervention can help reduce the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases.

1. (‘46 people dying of heart diseases in Pakistan every hour’, 2022)
2. (Quick et al., 2002; Hsu et al., 2018; Khan, 2019; Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan, 2020)