Exercise, make lifestyle changes, cut down on cholesterol, don’t smoke, find stress busters – these are the buzz words when we reach middle age. There is no gain without pain and this is so true for those of us who are addicted to cigarettes, love our French fries and calorie-laden desserts and live life in the fast lane.

According to Jack Lewin, CEO, American College of Cardiology, over the last eight years, there has been a 29 per cent reduction in sudden cardiac deaths in USA. That was achieved through a combination of using advance imaging techniques, interventions and prevention strategies. Banning smoking in public places, encouraging people to periodically test their BP, cholesterol and blood sugar in combination with pharmacology and technology help reduce the number of people suddenly dropping dead of a heart attack.

There was a time when women were thought to be beyond the ambit of heart disease, but guess what, Women’s Lib may have brought in many benefits, but it brought heart disease too on their doorstep. Post-menopause, when the body does not produce estrogen, it’s almost a level playing feild.

In India, the bad news is that the western parameters used to test risk may not hold good anymore and like diabetes, which is of epidemic proportions, cardiac disease is a sleeping monster waiting to wake up. Heart disease risks in the country are four times higher than in the west and six to eight times higher than in Asian countries. According to WHO, India would be the world capital of heart disease by 2050. As we adopt a western lifestyle, urban India is looking down the barrel of a gun. Indians are not genetically more prone to heart disease, it’s just that risk factors have been underestimated.

The Indian Council of Medical Research and Apollo Hospitals will soon bring out India-specific guidelines that will bring in new and lower threshold levels for risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension and lipid profiles that should be the mantra for every Indian trying to beat heart disease. With modern technology like cardiac imaging and other non-invasive and invasive cardiac diagnosis, it’s not the end of the road.

They say don’t trouble trouble, until trouble troubles you. But that may not be a good thing if heart disease is what you are talking about because catching the disease early will save you much heartache and expense.

Dr. Jamshed Dalal
Consultant Cardiologist,
Wockhardt Heart Hospital, Mumbai

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