Doctors have warned that nearly one-in-three citizens over the age of 40 are reported to have hypertension and half have high cholesterol.
The warning came at the ASEAN Federation of Cardiology Congress 2016, held this week in the nation’s capital of Yangon.
“Poor lifestyle choices are unfortunately becoming the norm in Myanmar,” said Dr Nwe Nwe, scientific chair of AFCC 2016 and head of cardiology at Yangon General Hospital. “The result is that more people have coronary artery disease, stroke and renal failure than ever before.”
Twelve per cent of the overall population has diabetes, while 15 per cent are smokers.
Risk factors are higher among patients with hypertension, of whom 30 per cent have diabetes and 60 per cent have high cholesterol.
“Consumption of salt is high in Myanmar, with people preferring to eat preserved food with a high salt content,” said Dr Nwe Nwe.
She added that many people were lacking in essential vitamins and minerals: “People do not exercise regularly, and the intake of fruits and vegetables is low even though they are readily available in Myanmar,” she said.
According to country’s health ministry, Myanmar has identified five nutrient deficiencies as major nutritional problems.
They include protein energy malnutrition and four micronutrient deficiencies; Iodine, vitamin A, Iron and Vitamin B1.
Similar to other South East Asia countries, Myanmar is experiencing the double burden of malnutrition and obesity.
Around 20 per cent of under-fives are underweight, while 25 per cent of those aged 15-64 are overweight or obese.
This week’s conference in Yangon focused on the most up-to-date evidence for the management of hypertension and high cholesterol.
Leading figures from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) also presented a special programme which includes highlights from the European cardiovascular prevention guidelines.
Professor Michel Komajda, a past president of the ESC and course director of the ESC programme in Myanmar, said: “Cardiovascular disease is the world’s number one killer and many deaths could be prevented with healthy lifestyles and adherence to medical treatment.”
The theme of AFCC 2016 was “Working Together for Heart Health”. Dr Nwe Nwe said: “ASEAN countries are working together to improve the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease through advocacy and research.”