New Delhi: As the global community observes ‘World Heart Day’ on September 29 to raise awareness about the overwhelming prevalence of risk factors that lead to heart disease, healthcare professionals and policymakers are shifting gears to more proactive approaches to counter this urgent public health threat.
In India, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for 5.87 million deaths, or, 60 percent of its 1.3 billion people. Five out of every 1000 individuals aged between 15 and 19 did not report or have their heart disease diagnosed while one out of every 100 heart patients in the age group 20-34 did the same.
“According to the Global Burden of Disease study published by the WHO in 2016, 22 percent of healthy lives lost among those aged between 15 and 49 years can be traced to cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Habits and choices formed early on affect the risk propensity for heart disease later in life. It has been shown, for example, that plaque starts accumulating in arteries flowing from the heart from an early stage and lead to clogging. Associated risk factors such as obesity and diabetes mellitus contribute to increased risk of CVD at an early age,” said Professor (Dr.) Pankaj Gupta of IIHMR University, Jaipur.
A new approach by the American Heart Association, for example, puts the emphasis on individual improvements in lifestyle including blood pressure management, cholesterol control, blood sugar reduction, physical activity, eating healthy, maintaining a healthy weight and cessation of tobacco use/ smoking.
Also, severe emotional turmoil can also exert significant pressure on heart health. With an ideal metric score of four, people are 61 percent less likely to die of heart failure in certain ethnic affiliations; however genetic predisposition and an unmanaged lifestyle may alter the set ideas of assessment of heart diseases in many courtiers.
According to Dr. Sanjiv Kumar, Director, International Institute of Health Management Research, New Delhi, a myth associated with heart disease is that the absence of any outward symptoms is an indicator of healthy heart.
“But the fact is that the majority of those with hypertension – which is a major cause of heart disease – may not show any outward symptoms. Headache, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, palpitations and nosebleeds may be the symptoms in some patients. That is why it is important to regularly check blood pressure. A reading of 140/90 mm of Mercury, or higher, in at least three of those readings will indicate the existence of hypertension. When such a condition is ignored, it can lead to an unexpected heart attack, a widening of the heart, stroke, and, over time, even heart failure,” added Dr. Kumar.
To steer clear of risk factors associated with heart disease, one should indulge in, at least moderate, physical exercise, reduce sodium, sugar and processed meat intake, consume more nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables and seafood omega-3 fats and stop smoking altogether.