A popular saying that I have been hearing from my childhood days is that “Eat, drink and enjoy as far as you can because you will die the day you have to and no one can change the fate!” Well, this is not the truth in today’s time. Let me take you through the modern day arsenals that can actually change the fate of heart disease. We Indians are witnessing an epidemic of heart blockages. Those who are prone to this disease are the ones who have blood pressure (hypertension), sugar (diabetes), smokers and those who have high cholesterol in their bodies. Our genes also play a major role in the presence of this disease in Indians. Now let us examine these ‘enemies’ risk factors one by one:
1. Blood pressure: Any pressure more than 120/80 is considered as abnormal and pressures more than 140/90 need medical treatment. The raised blood pressure is a silent killer; if unchecked, it slowly damages the heart, kidneys, eyes and brain.
2. Diabetes: This has to be labelled as our ‘national disease’. It is also a silent killer just like blood pressure, affecting almost every single organ in the body. It is easy to diagnose and treat. But lifestyle changes are the most important part of the treatment.
3. Smoking: It is more dangerous than alcohol in developing the blockages.
4. High cholesterol: The increased levels of cholesterol are determined by our genes and dietary factors. A simple blood test can diagnose the problem and the treatment is easily done by very effective medicines and lifestyle changes.
5. Obesity: This may not be directly causing the disease, but makes a person prone to development of the problem.
1. Please visit your doctor and get a health check-up done.
2. If you have any of the above problems then please adhere to your medicines without fail.
3. Lifestyle changes are most important. One needs to do physical activity at least threefour times in a week. By this I mean, brisk walking for 30-45 minutes a day or any other cardio workout. Talking and strolling in the park does not help. A strict diet control is mandatory. This usually calls for cutting down the intake of salt, sugar and fats. This basically means avoiding pickles, poppadom and sauces because they have a lot of salt. Fried food should be replaced with roasted foods. If you are diabetic then you need to be really careful about intake of sweets and calories. Even when you adhere to a strict lifestyle, your genes could make you prone to the blockages and you could suffer from angina or heart attack. But nothing to worry because now we are equipped with better medicines, stents and surgical techniques to help you.
1. Angiography and angioplasty: The technique is very well evolved and has become widely available. One can perform angiography in 5-10 minutes and diagnose the blockages. If amenable, they can be easily opened up with springs called as stents. The metallic drug coated stents available today are of very high quality and they reduce chances of blockages coming back by 90 per cent. The recent introduction of dissolving stents is a great leap forward. 2. Bypass surgery: The advances in technology make this surgery a child’s play in competent hands. You are back to your feet in four days time. Surgeons also are taking help from robots very frequently to reduce the size of cut on your chest and perform key-hole surgeries.
3. Failing heart: A small percentage of the patients go on to have damage to the heart to such an extent that it can’t pump adequately. Even for such patients, the good news is that a special pacemaker (biventricular pacemaker) is now available that can power the heart to become stronger and reduce your misery. If the damage to the heart is extensive then implantable pumps are available (LV assist devices) that need to be inserted surgically and help one till s/he finds a donor for a transplant. Heart transplant is one of the most successful organ transplants that is being done the world over with more than 60 per cent survival at 10 years. All the technological advancements become ineffective if you don’t change your lifestyle.