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Are You Listening to Your Heart?

The fact is alarming for a country like ours where one in four deaths is attributed to its cardiovascular disease (CVD) burden.

More than eight months into the worst pandemic of our times and we know it is far from waning, the intensity of the deadly virus illustrates that its impact is not only restricted to lungs, but the SARS-CoV-2 is also invading the heart. The fact is alarming for a country like ours where one in four deaths is attributed to its cardiovascular disease (CVD) burden. According to a report by National Crime Records Bureau, out of all CVDs, heart attacks that occur majorly due to coronary artery disease, increased by 53 percent in five years with 18,309 deaths in 2014 and 28,005 in 2019. Come 2020, and we find ourselves fighting a pandemic that is putting this patient number more at risk of contracting the virus. Ironically, at a time when patients should be even more vigilant about any heart related symptoms that can be alarming, many are ignoring them as they are sceptical about frequenting hospital facilities for the fear of contracting COVID-19. It is important to understand, while simple lifestyle changes can help for symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, cold sweat and light headedness, one must seek expert advice before it turns fatal

Throwing light on the cause of CVDs, Dr. Sanjay Mehrotra Senior Consultant Cardiologist, Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, Bangalore said, “If you look at the current status of our lifestyle, the two things that are impacting our health are dietary patterns and lack of physical activity. Sedentary lifestyles are leading to poor eating patterns. Processed food, low-protein diet and work stress are the major factors which are leading to central obesity and diabetes, thereafter, affecting your heart. High levels of cholesterol can clog arteries and that can raise the risk of blockages leading to heart attack. Therefore, it is imperative to take the right steps like healthy eating and exercising and get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly.”

Zooming in on CVDs: Lifestyle Changes that Matter

When coronary arteries get blocked due to deposition of fat, cholesterol, platelets, and calcium which reduces the blood flow to the heart, it is known as coronary artery disease. Now, the big concern is, how do we address cardiovascular fitness? Simple things go a long way in helping you keep your heart healthy. For instance, regular exercise improves blood circulation and strengthens the heart. It also helps in maintaining a healthy weight, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels. The next important question is— how much exercise is enough or required? The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of physical activity each week, that is, roughly 30 minutes each day. It further suggests, “moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights) at least 2 days per week.”

Being overweight exposes people to a host of other issues like high blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and fluctuating levels of blood glucose which leads to coronary heart diseases. This is where diet comes into play. Saturated foods contribute in building up of plaque. Therefore, a diet which is low-fat and low salt is recommended. Add berries to your diet which are rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins. Anthocyanins protect you against the oxidative stress that can cause heart disease. Experts also suggest foods rich in resistant starch like beans which can help reduce heart risk. Seeds like hemp, chia and flaxseeds should be included in the diet as they help in reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Dr Ranjan Shetty, HOD and interventional cardiologist at Manipal Hospitals, Bangalore, adds that when we speak of fitness, an important way to evaluate it is to evaluate the physiological age of a person than the chronological. “The pandemic has brought fitness regimes of many people to a screeching halt. Another important thing to understand is that while we assume heart disease symptoms as a problem for the elderly, it is not the case anymore. We are seeing many youngsters adding to the CVD burden. Hence, the emphasis on healthy living."

Today, we are seeing many people at 70 more active than people at 40. This is simply because they are taking better care of their lifestyles. Heartcare is not just about getting enough exercise or a proper diet. It is a healthy balance of the two. Since the outbreak, we are also witnessing a rise in the number of heart issues along with clotting. For someone who has been infected by the virus, if you are experiencing any symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness or chest pain, seek advice immediately.”

Seeking Medical Intervention: The Role of Technology

Even as we lay emphasis on the CVD burden, it is important to underline the role, technology has played in combating this burden. Over the decades, medical breakthroughs have helped address CVDs with smarter innovations. Take, coronary stents, for instance, the latest generation platinum chromium coronary in comparison to earlier-generation stents have smaller profiles, thinner struts supported by clinical data of more than 10000 patients. It is always advisable to choose a stent which are well studied with a broad spectrum of patients. Along with this, we also have technologies like Intravascular Ultrasound (IVUS), which guides interventional procedures by enabling the doctor to see a coronary artery more precisely by generating a real time picture.

While lifestyle changes are one part of the ‘healthy heart’ story, the other is latest available technology that can help you lead a better life. From keeping a check on the symptoms to seeking medical intervention at the right time, heart care is a combination of altering lifestyles and understanding the role technology plays in the story. As we fight the pandemic that has put our hearts at increased risk, it is important to stay alert and stay aware!


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