World Heart Day: Dr Murali P Vettath writes on how to reduce heart attack risks

The lifestyle of physical inactivity among the present generation is the most important factor which increases cardiovascular disease, says Dr. Murali P Vettath.

Even after two decades of celebrating World Heart Day, heart disease and stroke still remains the prime cause of death among Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD). Nearly 18 million people keep dying every year because of these ailments. Interestingly, 80% of these premature deaths could have been prevented. Though most of us have been repeatedly bombarded with information on how to prevent heart disease, we still don’t heed to these advices and only worry when it hits us. When we have a heart attack or a stroke, definitely apart from its physical damage, it is the psychological damage and the stress that usually takes a toll on the patient.

Dr. Murali P Vettath

Though we know that we cannot avoid many of the known risk factors like diabetic mellitus, hypertension and genetic factors, we still could modify our lifestyle, which would definitely help us in the long run. It has been proved beyond doubt that one who abstains from smoking for 15 years could reduce the risk of heart attack to that of a person who has never smoked. The second hand smoke to the children and the neighbour could be easily avoided if we could stop smoking. Hence avoiding tobacco in all forms could be the first thing we could do to avoid heart attack.

Around 31 % of the global deaths are from cardiovascular diseases and the prediction is that by 2030, 23 million people might die because of this. The WHO target is to reduce premature death from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) to 25% by 2025 and cardiovascular disease make up the largest chunk of it. The low and middle income countries are most effected by this Cardiovascular Disease that cause death. Heart disease and stroke still causes a 3rd of all deaths worldwide. Despite all types of propagandas to quit smoking, 15% of Indian population still smoke tobacco.

Luckily, obesity has not been a risk factor in India unlike in the west. Every year, the world heart day is celebrated in most of the places in the world with a view to spread awareness and help people avoid the risk factors. Though tobacco is a known single risk factor which can be avoided, all the other risk factors could be modified if we stick to a healthy regime.

The lifestyle of physical inactivity among the present generation is the most important factor which increases cardiovascular disease. Hence trying to exercise at least 5 days a week could be the first change that one could bring about trying to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Avoiding unhealthy food like transfatty acids could be another thing that needs to be kept in mind. Hence modifying food habits by taking more fresh fruits and vegetables and avoiding canned and preserved food would go a long way in reaching the goal of heart healthy diet.

In addition to this, knowing the warning signs of a heart attack or a stroke and giving immediate attention to those signs could go a long way in avoiding permanent damage to these organs, like trying to reach a centre where primary angioplasty could be performed should be the main goal when it strikes. If anyone who develops an acute myocardial infarction (Heart Attack) his or her close relatives should make it a point to bring him to the closest centre within the 'Golden hour'. In this way, if the block in the coronary artery, could be opened up by a balloon/stent, we would be able to save most of his heart muscle from developing irreversible damage.

Hence, at this juncture all we need to remember is that, we as Asians are prone to develop coronary artery disease at a very young age. We need to modify our lifestyle and control diabetes and hypertension.

(Dr. Murali P Vettath is the chairman of Cardiovascular surgery & Thoracic surgery at Meitra Hospital in Kozhikode.)