Due to lifestyle diseases, Indians are developing the problem a decade earlier than the Westerners

Indians are developing heart failure (HF) a decade earlier than the Western population due to lifestyle diseases like blood pressure, diabetes and heart attacks.

While the condition is usually reported in the 60 to 70 years’ age group in the West, the number of elderly and young people developing heart failure is increasing in India. Heart failure is a condition in which a weakened heart is not able to pump the required amount of fresh blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to various organs in the body.

Heart attack is the most common cause for HF — around 40 per cent of the cases, followed by high blood pressure and valvular heart disease (30 per cent each).Though heart failure could turn fatal in severe cases, it could be managed with latest medicines and advances in medical technology, according to Dr. C. Narasimhan, Senior Consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist, Care Hospitals.

The prevalence of HF increases with age from less than one per cent in the 20 to 39 years age group to over 20 per cent in those above 80 years.

The lifetime risk of developing HF at the age of 40 years is 11.4 per cent in men and 15.4 per cent in women.

Dr. Narasimhan said young people suffering a heart attack were prone to develop heart failure in 8 to 10 years after the episode. In case of chronic blood pressure, the heart would have to work much harder to pump the blood and this in turn leads to heart enlargement and makes the pumping less efficient.

New cases

He said it was estimated that around five lakh new cases of heart failure were being diagnosed every year in the country and almost 50 per cent of them were of patients below 60 years. Even with the best therapy, five per cent of HF patients die due to sudden cardiac arrest and around 25 to 30 per cent might not survive longer than five years in advanced HF cases.

The common symptoms include breathing difficulty, fatigue and tiredness while walking, nocturnal cough and loss of appetite. In the advanced stage, the symptoms include leg swelling, abdominal distension and heart enlargement.

Pointing out that quality of life would come down significantly due to HF, he said the treatment options include medications and implantable devices depending upon the degree of severity. In advanced cases, cardiac transplantation was also an option, Dr. Narasimhan added.

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