Only 50 per cent of heart attack patients make it to the hospital on time!

An expert decodes why lifestyle changes are so important to avert heart problems.

We don t need anybody to tell us that the average age for an Indian to suffer from a heart attack has come down from 60 to 40 years. Heart diseases are one of the leading causes of mortality in India. It is killing more people than any other diseases and this isn t a good thing because most of the time heart diseases are preventable. The heart is an amazing organ that starts to beat when one is in the womb and keeps doing its work till his last breath. So, a little care and attention are well deserving, says Dr Ravinder Singh Rao, Director, TAVI program EHCC Hospital, Jaipur, who was in town to discuss the unique valve-in-valve surgery done first time in western India to a 60-year-old man. Read the story here.

According to Dr Rao, the four major causes that lead to increase in the number of heart diseases in India are as follows:

a. Diet: Not just the easy availability of junk food, in general, the Indian diet pattern is rich in carbohydrate. So if one even eats eight to 10 chapattis, saying it is home cooked food, one ends up with a caloric burden.

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b. Lack of exercise: Excess caloric input and negligible caloric output through exercise or physical labour, takes a toll on the heart.

c. Genetics: Yes, we can t escape this, so we better make ourselves aware how to keep the effect of the notorious genes in control.

d. Smoking: One vice which is rising among Indians and the leading cause for predisposing one to heart health problems.

Here is an interaction with the renowned cardiologist regarding the heart health crisis in India.

If heart diseases are preventable why are the numbers still rising?

Because of ignorance, with lifestyle changes, you can avert several heart conditions. It is like a game of probability. Not that your heart will never age if you follow good habits, but with corrective measures, the chances of getting a heart problem are less and surviving it is more. For instance, when a person gets a massive heart attack, only 50 percent of them are capable of reaching the hospital on time and get treated (provided they have taken care of their heart all along). The other 50 percent might just end their lives once the attack strikes, points Dr Rao.

With so much awareness on heart health, why is it we are still not able to control the epidemic of heart disease?

One must understand that lifestyle changes to prevent heart diseases must start with healthy lifestyle changes adopted by the entire family and then making the community aware of the healthy habits. For instance, if there is one heart patient in the family and special arrangements are done to prepare meals for him, the same meal should be served to the entire family, so others don t fall prey to heart diseases, points Dr Rao. He also believes in connecting people who suffer from heart ailments together so they can start healthy habits like taking daily walks, playing sport regularly to take care of their heart. One need a lot of support to act on the rules set to undergo lifestyle changes, which comes from family and friends, says Dr Rao.

Why do people fail to stick to the lifestyle changes that they adopt to prevent heart diseases?

Individual approach towards lifestyle changes seldom yields results. This is why when I have to treat a patient I always have a family meeting to explain the perils of ignorance of good health and why they all have to chip in to make the entire family healthy and not just a person. I tell them how smoking can not only kill one but can be dangerous for the entire family, says Dr Rao, who believes protecting a heart is not an individualistic approach.

Why should people be more cautious about heart health?

With improvements in a developing country like ours, longevity is increasing and so one needs to keep in mind that ailments can take refuge in one s body, heart diseases especially. So, if you can be on guard with your heart health and adopt corrective lifestyle changes, chances are you can live a life with minimal ailments and better quality.

Read this in Marathi

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