The epidemiological transition can be attributed largely to the increase in the CVD risk factors, which include diabetes, hypertension, physical inactivity, obesity, dyslipidemia, and smoking, among others.
By Dr. H P Bharathi
World Heart Day: Around the turn of the century, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) became the leading cause of mortality in India. The epidemiological transition can be attributed largely to the increase in the CVD risk factors, which include diabetes, hypertension, physical inactivity, obesity, dyslipidemia, and smoking, among others.
In 2016, the prevalence of CVDs in India was estimated to be around 55 million. An alarming proportion of these cases remain undiagnosed until they get serious. While sudden pain in the chest or the arm are obvious signs, there are plenty of others you should watch out for.
Swollen feet – If you notice visible swelling in your feet, it is a serious indication of heart problems. Swelling is a tell-tale sign of reduced circulation. When the blood flows out of your heart at a slower rate, the blood returning to your heart gets backed up. This results in a build-up in the tissues surrounding your legs, ankles, and feet.
Erectile dysfunction – In men, erectile dysfunction is one of the most common signs of a heart problem. When the blood vessels that feed the penis do not receive enough blood, it becomes difficult to maintain an erection during sex. In many cases, this is a symptom that presents itself far in advance of any other symptoms.
Referred pain – Pain caused by heart problems can be felt in areas other than just the chest. That is when the pain signals running down your nerves start to overwhelm all the nearby nerves. Most patients experience referred pain at some point before the condition becomes severe. Referred pain due to heart problems are usually felt in the arms, shoulders, neck, and jaw.
Physical struggle – If you are struggling to finish non-strenuous physical tasks, it is the sign of a circulatory problem. You may experience shortness of breath while climbing the stairs or feel the need to rest more often while exercising. If this sounds familiar, it could be an indication that your heart is unable to supply your muscles with oxygen-rich blood.
Memory loss – If you notice your thinking of getting muddied and confused, it could be a sign that your brain is not getting enough blood. If the problem is left unaddressed, it can damage your brain cells and lead to serious issues like short term memory loss. Regular episodes are an indication that there is an underlying medical problem that needs serious medical attention.
Cardiovascular disease: How can you reduce the risk?
Fortunately, making a few lifestyle adjustments can significantly lower CVD risk factors like high LDL cholesterol, hypertension, and obesity.
Exercise – Exercise is one of the most effective ways of protecting yourself against heart disease. It lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, and increases cardiovascular strength. Try and get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. If you can’t do cardio, try incorporating yoga into your daily schedule. Studies have demonstrated that both short- and long-term a yoga practice helps bring down the blood pressure and heart rate.
Balanced diet – Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is essential for heart health. Cutting down on foods high in sugars and saturated fats will help lower the level of LDL cholesterol and prevent the onset of type-2 diabetes. Reducing salt intake will also protect you against high blood pressure, which is one of the key CVD risk factors.
Lose weight – Portion control is equally important. Taking in more energy than you can expend can lead to unhealthy weight gain, which ends up putting extra pressure on the heart. Visceral fat, also known as belly fat, is particularly dangerous as it dramatically increases your chances of developing heart problems. Consult a licensed naturopath if you have unhealthy eating habits. A naturopath will factor in physical, metabolic, environmental, and psychological factors before giving you tips to improve portion control.
Prevention remains the best cure for heart problems. By leading a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly, improving the quality of your diet, and avoiding habits like drinking and smoking, you can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The author is Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jindal Naturecure Institute. Views expressed are the author’s own.