New Delhi: A spurt in the incidence of heart ailments and cardiac arrest among the younger age population has become a norm, and the problem of cardiovascular disease (CVDs) in India is growing exponentially. CVDs are striking Indians a decade earlier than the western population. Indians are known to have the highest coronary artery disease (CAD) rates, which is also known as atherosclerosis, a narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, usually due to plaque buildup.
The risk of developing atherosclerosis is found to be significantly increased if the person smokes, has high blood pressure (hypertension), has high cholesterol, does not exercise regularly, has diabetes, is obese or overweight or has a family history of chronic heart disease (CHD). Despite ample research proving these to be major contributing factors, ignorance towards the adoption of preventive measures hugely exists. ETHealthworld speaks to heart specialists to understand how they view this scenario in the fight against CVDs.
The percentage of people who are ignorant or unaware of CVDs in this country is a very sizable number believes Dr O P Yadava, Chief Executive Officer & Chief Cardiac Surgeon at National Heart Institute. “It is not only the illiterate or the uneducated virtue of class, who are ignorant, but there is also a second class, the effluent one who have adequate resources and knowledge, and yet they are in a denial mode. They feel it can be anyone but not them, who can get heart disease. And whenever the symptom arises, they do not associate it with a heart attack or stroke and treat it as gas or acidity. This proportion of patients is very sizeable and it is important for the masses to be educated and sensitized towards the prevalence of these disorders.”
Speaking on the same lines Dr TS Kler, Chairman, Fortis Heart and Vascular Institute, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram said, “Most of the people ( more than 90% ) in India are ignorant about heart disease and have no concept of regular cardiac check-up. They come to doctors only when significant symptoms develop or they get a heart attack.”
Dr Praveen Kulkarni, senior cardiologist at Global Hospitals Parel, Mumbai, said, “The majority of the patients who develop a heart attack or symptoms of heart attack, do not actually know that they’re harboring heart disease before the presentation that is inherent in the nature of heart disease itself. When there is a build-up of these blockages in the blood vessels of the heart, it usually causes no symptoms. So that’s why there is a need for regular and preventive checkups.”
Experts stress that the heart is affected by every small and big disease occurring inside the body. Over 25.66 lakh deaths in 2019 in the country were due to cardiovascular diseases stated a new WHO report: ‘Invisible numbers – the true scale of non-communicable diseases.’
Globally, one in three deaths – 17.9 million a year – are due to CVDs. Eighty-six per cent of CVD deaths could have been prevented or delayed through prevention and treatment, the report added.
The WHO report further revealed that there was a 22 per cent probability of death between the age of 30 and 70 due to any type of non-communicable disease, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Elaborating on how the NCDs affect the heart, Dr Kulkarni added, “Among the prevalent diseases causing heart attacks or heart diseases, the four most common are diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and abnormal cholesterol levels. India is already deemed as the diabetes capital of the world and even in pre-diabetes where there is insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome. These NCDs are the real spectrum of diseases, which put us at a very high risk as a society for developing heart disease.”
Commenting on how dietary choices also play a major role, Dr Yadava warned, “It is not necessary that you have to drink huge amounts of alcohol, sometimes even small amounts can damage the heart. Fatty liver is turning up as another very common denominator for a lot of lifestyle-related disorders. A lot of sugar that we eat is converted to fat and is deposited in the liver and that can be harmful. Drugs that are used to treat cancer in other organs of the body can have an effect on the heart.”
Adoption of disease-preventive strategies must be emphasized regularly to drive awareness in individuals from their childhood itself because that is where lifestyle modifications can truly bring a healthier and long-lasting impact.