The Healthy Heart: Understanding Health Issues and Preventive Measures
I still remember that evening when my uncle came back to home from work. As a 13-year old teenager, I was desperately waiting for him as he was supposed to take us out for dinner. As the clock struck 7, my uncle came, but he was exhausted. My mom gave him a glass of water, but before he could drink, he fell on the floor. I was horrified to see my uncle, ‘my hero’ in this state. With the help of our neighbour, we took him to the hospital where, after a series of tests, the doctor diagnosed it as a heart attack. It was a severe attack which, unfortunately, turned our world upside down. In a few hours, our life completely changed.
In the backdrop of World Heart Day on 29 September, the memories of that day come alive.
Too often, heart issues are the silent killers
The chronic heart issue is not a new one as it has been threatening us for years, making us question our lifestyle choices, diet, and level of physical activity.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 1.7 million hearts stop beating every year in India. Of the 30 million heart patients in India, 14 million reside in urban and 16 million in rural areas. If the current trend prevails, the number of cardiovascular diseases in India will surpass any other country by 2020. It would also become the largest cause of death and disability in India. As per an estimate, cardiac hospitals in India perform over 2 lakh open heart surgeries in a year, which is one of the highest numbers worldwide. Angioplasty, the minimally invasive procedure to fix heart ailments, is rising in popularity with nationwide statistics showing a 14% annual increase in the number of cath lab procedures.
Source: The Times of India
Once considered an old-age ailment, heart diseases have seen a rise among the young generation. The average age of people with heart issues is coming down. Due to the changing lifestyle and food habits, the number of heart patients under the age of 40 has increased by 30% from 10% a decade ago.
Every year, nearly 1,50,000 children are born with congenital heart diseases. In some cases, people are born with conditions that predispose them to cardiac ailments, but in most of the cases, people develop heart issues because of their lifestyle. Besides unhealthy lifestyle, high stress level, zero physical activity and higher intake of saturated fats and tobacco, are causing heart issues among people.
In urban India, over 60% of women in the age group of 30-45 years are at the risk of cardiovascular diseases. As per the study conducted by Bengaluru’s Heal Foundation in 2013 on 577 cardiologists, 54% of the doctors observed a rise of 16%-20% in heart ailments among women in the past few years. The reason could be Indian culture also in which advertisements, movies, and plays always show men getting heart attacks. However, in reality, women are equally prone to cardiovascular ailments.
Source: The Economic Times
Listen what your heart has to say: Risk factors
- High cholesterol
- Lack of physical exercise
- Family history of cardiac issues
The early symptoms of heart diseases
- Discomfort, tiredness or burning sensation while walking
- Sharp and contrasting pain in the centre of the chest
- Excessive sweating
- Heaviness in the chest with or without radiating to left arm or neck, which lasts for over 30 minutes
- Breathlessness, dizziness and unconsciousness
- Unexplained fatigue, paleness and anxiety
Given the grim situation, there is an immediate need to create awareness about preventive factors and take immediate steps:-
First aid for a heart attack
What to do:
- Call for emergency medical help. It may sound obvious, but in most of the cases, people try to resort to self-administered methods which can further worsen the situation
- Make the patient lie down on a flat surface and loosen clothing
- Clear the space and let the patient take a few deep breaths
- In case of low blood pressure, wrist pulse rate may be absent and therefore, check the pulse rate of neck
- Try to give oxygen if the patient is not breathing
- In case the patient feels nauseous, turn him to the one side and let him throw up expulsions as to prevent it from entering the other body parts
- Raise both the legs of the patients to increase blood supply
What not to do:
Time is an essence and therefore, recognizing the early symptoms and taking immediate medical assistance can save many lives.
- Thumping and pumping the chest without understanding the heart rhythm should be avoided
- Do not feed the patient
- It is imperative to understand that most of the lifesaving medicines for heart attack work only when they are given within one or two hours of experiencing the first symptoms when there is less cardiac damage
Myths associated with heart ailments
Let’s bust myths associated with heart issues:
- Myth: If you are physically fit, you are not prone to heart ailments
Reality: Being fit does not guarantee you a disease-free life. Even thin or weight conscious people can suffer from clogged arteries due to cholesterol deposit, and damaged arteries. Further, factors like smoking, alcohol, diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure can also put you at high risk of cardiac ailments, irrespective of your fitness level.
- Myth: It is easy to diagnose heart attacks
Reality: No, it is not easy to recognise heart attacks because at times even cardiologists dismiss symptoms as gas or indigestion.
- Myth: If there is no chest pain, then there is no heart attack
Reality: Heart attacks can have various manifestations and pain or discomfort can be anywhere from the jaw to the umbilicus.
- Myth: Women do not get heart attacks
Reality: Women account for nearly half of all the heart attack deaths. They are less prone to heart ailments in their reproductive age groups. However, they become vulnerable if they smoke and are hypertensive.
- Myth: If you have chest pain, instead of rushing to the doctor, wait for some time
Reality: Wait and watch approach is fatal in cases of heart and brain. An immediate medical attention is required in case of unrecognized chest pain because every second you waste can cause irreparable damage to your heart.
- Myth: Young people never get heart attacks
Reality: This could have been true in older times, however, now people even in their 20s and 30s are suffering from cardiac issues. The high intake of junk food, smoking, less exercise and high stress level have become the part of today’s youth life which are also the cause behind cardiac ailments.
- Myth: After a heart attack, the life gets completely changed
Reality: After a heart attack, life can be back to the normal very soon if a person becomes conscious of his health. If the person adopts healthy eating habits, quit smoking and alcohol, exercise regularly and most importantly, keep a positive attitude towards life, he/she can easily avoid heart issues in future.
8 steps to prevent heart disease
- Get active: The minimum 30 minutes physical activity a day can prevent heart attack and other cardiovascular ailments. You don’t need to hit the gym to stay active, as by bringing some changes to your daily life, you can stay healthy. Like, use the stairs instead of the lift, get off the bus a few stops earlier and walk the rest of the way. Being active is also a good way to control stress and weight, which are the prime reasons behind heart ailments.
- Avoid all tobacco products: If you quit smoking, you can half reduce the risk of coronary heart disease within a year. Passive smoking is as bad as active smoking. Also, avoid smoke-filled environment and try to avoid alcohol completely and even if you take, make sure it is in moderation.
- Enjoy balanced diet: Curb your intake of processed food items which contain a high level of salt and eat plenty of fresh foods, vegetables and a whole lot of grain products like peas, lentils, meat, fish, etc. Drink green tea which helps to burn fat.
- Keep a healthy weight: By keeping a healthy weight, you can keep a check on your blood pressure level and cardiac issues also.
- Practice relaxation exercises: Stress is one of the major reasons behind heart ailments, and therefore, it is important to practice meditation and other exercises to alleviate stress.
- Cut sodium intake: Use a small amount of salt to cook dishes and try other natural ways to add flavor to your food items.
|Salt and Sugar||Salmon|
Health insurance as your savior
As it is said, prevention is better than cure; you should buy a comprehensive health insurance to get the best medical treatment and protection against rising medical expenses, in case they will arise in the future. Further, as the young generation is becoming susceptible to ailments, it is imperative to buy health insurance now to ensure that in the case of any mishappening, your policy is there to take care of your financial worries. In most of the cases, the policy comes with a lifetime renewability feature, which ensures that you continue to enjoy coverage throughout your life. For preventing heart diseases, you need to make smart choices that will pay off well in the rest of your life and buying health insurance is a one step taken towards the secure future.
A healthy heart is a way to healthy living
Imagine you are driving on a steep decline. As long as the engine is working well, you can travel without any hindrance. But in case there is a minor mechanical fault, it can disrupt your otherwise smooth journey. In this scenario, replace the car’s engine with your heart. As long as your heart is healthy, you are capable of enjoying life to the fullest.
Approximately, an average human heart beats 2.5 billion times during an average lifespan of 66 years. But how many of us are making the most of 2.5 billion beats? The answer is very less. However, don’t you think, it is the high time that we all pay attention to what our heart needs because when the heart is in good state, the body is healthy.
After all, someone has rightly said, “Heart is not a basket for keeping tension and sadness. It’s a golden pot for keeping roses of happiness. Let your heart be happy always”