Adopting heart-healthy living from childhood through adulthood can prevent future impact
You can scarcely say cardio vascular disease and not expect to be put into some sort of scare this side of the subcontinent.
If you set the scare aside, and treat the facts and figures often thrown at you with respect, and even some diffidence, you will find that a life-course approach to preventing cardio vascular disease would be a good idea.
That is also this year’s theme for World Heart Day, observed on the last Sunday of September. This year’s campaign is intended at highlighting the actions that can be taken throughout a person’s life to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Today, we have an opportunity to prevent the future impact of heart disease and stroke by adopting heart-healthy living from childhood through adulthood,” according to the World Heart Federation that orchestrates awareness activities around the day every year.
Since we cannot escape from the statistics, here is the latest alarming batch of figures from a countrywide survey: 73 per cent of Chennaiites are at high risk of cardiovascular disease. The Saffolalife study, by a cooking-oil company, has also found that over 70 per cent of 1.86 lakh urban residents are at risk of cardiovascular disease. Also, 51 per cent of the Chennai respondents were ‘obese’ and four per cent had high risk cholesterol levels. A dietary analysis revealed that 40 per cent of the respondents consumed preserved or processed foods, and 31 per cent consumed fried foods at least twice a week.
What was interesting is that the study showed a shockingly large difference between the chronological age and the age of the heart.
Clearly, young India’s heart is ageing much faster; and for all parameters that count as risk factors, there is literally no difference between the older group and younger (30-44 years) age group. “We measure chronological age versus vascular age, or the age of the blood vessels in the body,” explains S. Thanikachalam, Chairman and Director, Cardiac Care Centre, Sri Ramachandra University.
The Centre is engaged in an extensive population-based epidemiological study that includes assessment of risk factors for cardio vascular disease. “With ageing there is a gradual stiffening of the vessel, and this is called vascular ageing. But these days, in urban and semi-urban centres, there is at least a 10 year difference between the age of a person and his vascular age. For instance for a person of 30, the vascular age must be similar, but it is actually higher, it is 40 years.”
Over a period of time this can lead to conditions including stroke, heart attack, kidney failure and peripheral vascular disease. The best solution would be to get regular exercise, eat healthy, keep the sugar and cholesterol under control and bring some stress management into play, Dr. Thanikachalam advises.
In a study conducted by Dr. GS Foundation recently, among 100 employees of State Bank in Chennai, it was found that there were 18 per cent who have uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension. In a majority of the group, the HDL or good cholesterol was also very low, according to G. Sengottuvelu, senior interventional cardiologist, Apollo Hospitals.
While it does not make sense to screen entire populations, because of the scale and cost of that exercise, he recommends identifying ‘at risk’ populations selectively for testing. “For instance, pick people with a family history of cardiac disease, smokers, and people with high, uncontrolled sugar and blood pressure. Add stress to that, and it’s a potent combination,” he says.
Scientific risk scores are available, even online, which one can use to estimate heart health, Dr. Sengottuvelu explains.