The statistics are not good. A study titled Cardiovascular Diseases in India published by the American Heart Association, states that in comparison with Caucasians, heart or cardiovascular diseases (CVD) affect Indians at least a decade earlier and in their most productive midlife years. The study goes on to state that in western populations only 23% of CVD deaths occur before the age of 70 years; in India, this number is 52%.
CVDs are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels. These include coronary heart disease/heart attacks, cerebrovascular disease/stroke, heart failure, hypertension, peripheral artery disease (plaque build-up in the arteries), rheumatic heart disease (damage of heart valves and muscles), and congenital heart disease (defect in the structure of the heart).
However, doctors say the onset of CVD can be prevented to a great extent and even reversed in a lot of people.
An unhealthy diet and lifestyle, physical inactivity, smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, psychological stress, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a high level of bad cholesterol in the blood are the main risk factors for developing cardiovascular diseases. Cardiologists recommend some important steps that can be taken to prevent heart disease.
Avoid tobacco - Cigarettes, chewable tobacco or gutka, cigars, pipes—every form of tobacco is harmful. Smoking increases the chances of CVD up to 6 times. The risk of heart stroke and heart attack decreases immediately after one stops using tobacco products.
Physical activity- Only 30 minutes of physical activity every day can bring huge changes in someone’s health. Aerobic exercises like jogging, brisk walking, swimming, dancing, stretching and strengthening exercises are highly recommended. Yoga helps in reversing conditions like high blood pressure. Doing asanas, pranayama, meditation is a great choice to overcome stress.
Healthy diet- A healthy diet decreases the chances of heart attacks and strokes and is incomplete without a good amount of vegetables and fruits. Omega-3 fat found in fish, almonds and walnuts, lean meat, whole grain, and pulses are all beneficial in helping lower blood cholesterol levels. It is important to avoid a high intake of salt, sugar, trans-fats like processed foods, bakery products, and high saturated foods like organ meat, butter, full-fat milk and cheese. Alcohol should also be stopped.
Today, more and more hospitals are introducing and investing in Heart Disease Reversal Programmes with the objective to reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent strokes and heart attacks. For those genetically predisposed to heart diseases or already diagnosed with one, there are heart clinics that help one deal with the disease.
“As a nation, we cannot afford to have so many sick people with heart diseases. It will drain us financially if we don’t stem the problem. Which is why, even though it may appear counterproductive to hospitals, we need to invest in ensuring that people do not reach a hospital with end-stage heart disease,” explains Dr Naresh Trehan, Cardiovascular surgeon and Chairman & Managing Director, Medanta- The Medicity.
“At Medanta, for every patient, a personalized therapeutic plan is made according to the estimated risk of having cardiovascular complications. We do several tests to check on risk factors and then stay in touch with the patients through various ways like phone calls, emails, video calls for consultations and when they visit the clinic,’ says Dr Sanjay Mittal, Clinical and Preventive Cardiology, Heart Institute, Medanta. ‘We have a diverse team of experts from different specialities working together to help a patient deal with CVD,” he adds.
Typically, heart disease reversal teams include cardiologists, nutritionists, endocrinologists, clinical psychologists, exercise therapists, smoking cessation experts, yoga and meditation experts, obesity management experts, and specialists like pulmonologists, nephrologists and sleep medicine specialists who work together.
Doctors believe that while the number of people with heart diseases has increased, so has the
awareness about it. With awareness hopefully, the numbers will soon drop.
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