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Dramatic reduction in sudden cardiac deaths in U.S.

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(From left) Stephen Achenbach, cardiologist from Erlangen, Germany; Preetha Reddy, MD, Apollo Hospitals; Jagat Narula, Chief, Cardiology, University of California; Pratap C. Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals; George P. George, Director, Business development and Strategy, ACC; and Jack Lewin, CEO, American College of Cardiology, at the press meet held at Apollo Heart Hospitals in Chennai on Friday.
(From left) Stephen Achenbach, cardiologist from Erlangen, Germany; Preetha Reddy, MD, Apollo Hospitals; Jagat Narula, Chief, Cardiology, University of California; Pratap C. Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Hospitals; George P. George, Director, Business development and Strategy, ACC; and Jack Lewin, CEO, American College of Cardiology, at the press meet held at Apollo Heart Hospitals in Chennai on Friday.

Special Correspondent

“Achieved by using advanced imaging techniques and prevention strategies”

CHENNAI: Over the last eight years, there has been a 29 per cent reduction in sudden cardiac deaths in the United States of America. The dramatic reduction was achieved through a combination of using advanced imaging techniques, procedures and prevention strategies, Jack Lewin, CEO, American College of Cardiology, said.

Of these, prevention strategies were probably the most important, Dr. Lewin said. The American College of Cardiology put awareness messages out and this succeeded in educating more people, a good number of them, women. The Red Dress campaign targeted women, seeking to address the lack of awareness among them. “Also, more women will die of heart attack than men in the next few years,” Dr. Lewin said, at an interaction with presspersons organised by Apollo Hospitals.

Banning smoking in public places, encouraging people to periodically test their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar were among the factors, in combination with pharmacology and technology that helped in reducing the rate of sudden cardiac deaths in the U.S. “But prevention is important. Prevention is going to get the next 30 per cent [reduction in cardiac deaths],” Dr. Lewin said.

In countries like India that have an impending epidemic of heart disease coming up, primary prevention would be a smart thing to start with. “There is an opportunity in India to put the message of prevention out so that it could save millions of lives, who can sit down to dinner with their families, just as people in the U.S. are doing now,” he said. “The advantage is that science now tells us that we can reverse the process of atherosclerosis; so you do not have to resign yourself to it,” Dr. Lewin added.

Pratap C. Reddy, chairman, Apollo Hospitals, said, “We do not want the title of the cardio vascular disease capital of the world. We are now trying to convince the patient that he or she owes it to themselves and their families to remain healthy.”

This would include being aware of the risk factors, taking proactive measures to tide over them or keep an existing disease under control and for high risk cases, performing diagnostic tests to catch the disease early.

He went on to say that about 75-80 per cent of persons have no idea that they are potential candidates for heart disease.

It is also estimated that over 30 million people do not even know that they have heart problems. “How can we help this large group of people before they fall prey to the disease? How can we prevent people from dropping dead with sudden cardiac death? We have to learn from America,” Dr. Reddy added.

Jagat Narula, Chief, Cardiology, University of California, Irvine, and editor-in-chief, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, cautioned that chest pain alone is not an indication of cardiac disease.

Patients completely asymptomatic are known to drop down dead suddenly. It is more important to handle that. Messages must go out to the public, urging them to control their risk factors, Dr. Narula said, highlighting the role of the media in this.

He suggested that the media take up the issue on campaign mode and mass media must give up their tendency to dish out soppy messages of despair.

Dr. Narula also suggested that India-relevant chemical parameters (BP, sugar levels, Cholesterol) be evolved, as the Western standards currently being used may no longer be inappropriate, considering our genetic load.

To this, Dr. Reddy added that Apollo in association with the ICMR would soon be publishing data – the first set of ‘normal’ values for the Indian population.

This was evolved with the results of tests conducted on at least 1.6 million people, he added.

Stephen Achenbach, cardiologist from Erlangen, Germany, and George P. George, Director, Business development and Strategy, ACC, also participated in the discussions.

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