Matter of the heart

Written by Kiran Yadav | Updated: Sep 29 2008, 04:41am hrs
A decade back you probably wouldnt have cared enough to read any further. Today, you realise the need to. If fears come true, in another two years, India will be home to 60% of the total cardiac patients in the world. According to the recent World Health Federation report, cardiovascular diseases claim close to 20 million lives in India every year. On last count, the Federation found 60 million coronary heart patients in the country. And, if World Health Organisation estimates are correct, the Indian economy stands to lose more than 1% of GDP

by 2015!

The economic burden of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) is indeed massive. People in their 30s, deemed to be at their productive best, are complaining of heart ailments. One of the heart patients I recently came across was just 23-years-old. Prognosis of such young patients is the challenge we are facing today, says Dr Suresh Vijan, visiting Intervention Cardiologist, Lilavati and Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai. Corporate houses are holding workshops for their employees in an attempt to battle the CVD epidemic.

Let us not take the escapists route and blame hereditary factors alone. Dr H K Chopra, Chairman, World Heart Academy and Secretary General of International Medical Sciences maintains that 95% of premature heart attack and associated metabolic syndrome can be attributed to the wrong kind of lifestyle. If you have time to catch up with friends in the evening for a drink but no time to go for a walk, if you look up to Churchill as a role model simply because of his style of smoking cigar, if fried food on the plate cheers you up and also if you dont remember the last time you had a whole fruit you definitely seem to be at risk. Dr Praveen Chandra, Director, Interventional Cardiologist, Max Heart hospital, Delhi says: One of the easiest ways to curb your risk of heart diseases is to have wholegrain products. It helps cut down total cholesterol as well as the unhealthy low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. A recent study, published in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Review, conducted ten trials on 914 adults suffering from at least one major risk factor for coronary heart disease. Eight of the trials used whole grain oats and found a substantial reduction in cholesterol. Cholesterol is a tricky factor though. One third of patients with coronary heart disease have normal cholesterol levels, says Dr Kushagra Katariya, Chief, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon. But the right diet can indeed work miracles for the heart. Indians, according to Dr Anupa Sidhu, Director, Lady Irwin college, need to be more carfeul about their diets. Genetically, Indians tend to have a higher percentage of body fat than people in the rest of the world. In fact, a child of a parent with premature CVD is at a higher risk of heart ailments. The fatty streaks are visible even at the age of two. In a nutshell, early screening is essential.

It is as important to keep fit as it is to watch your diet. Just ask your love handles or double chin and youll know how much they love chocolate muffins and lemon tarts. Remember, it is easy to put on weight but difficult to shrug it off. You need to burn 7,500 calories to lose one kg, says Dr Anju Ghei, VP Fitness, VLCC. Thats defintely a piece of information that should restrain the obese from ordering pizza with extra cheese. Simple lifestyle changes can help you achieve a 15-20 year decrease in biological age, adds Ghei.

In case you are suffering from heart problems already, consult your doctor before devising your exercise regimen. If you know people who are afraid of having a heart attack while exercising, reassure them by explaining their risk is one in 2,567,707 workouts. With exercise the heart only becomes stronger. It pumps more blood per beat, so at rest, the heart rate is lower, says Ghei. Is your heart listening

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* Exercise! Each day, enjoy at least 30-45 minutes of physical activity to maintain weight and 60-90 minutes to lose weight. Physical inactivity increases the risk of developing heart disease 1.5 times and doubles the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

* Eat healthy. Low fruit and vegetable intake accounts for about 20% of cardiovascular disease worldwide.

* Reduce your salt intake. A diet high in sodium increases the risk of developing hypertension, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A reduction in dietary intake of sodium by about 3g of salt a day would lead to a 50% reduction in hypertension cases.

* Watch your cholesterol. Choose foods containing unsaturated or monosaturated fats. Avoid trans fats and cholesterol. Eat fewer fried foods. Eat lean meat and fish.

* Stop smoking. Make sure your home and work space are smoke-free.