Heart Troubles
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Heart Troubles

November 27, 2021

Puneeth Rajkumar’s untimely death due to a heart attack on October 29 was a shocker because of his age, just 46 years old and superior fitness.

Now, his death due to a heart attack has got my heart racing with anxiety and Madhuri Dixit has ensnared my mind. Why?

Because when my father had a pacemaker inserted in his chest — a pacemaker is a device that gives out mild electric charge to maintain a steady heartbeat — I had joked, saying, “Congratulations, you got a ‘UPS’ for your heart.”

I had also mockingly sung  “Dhak Dhak Karne Laga,” a Madhuri Dixit song, along with her                                                                              famous chest thrusting move when he was rolled back after the surgery. Then my father reminded me with a crooked smile, “My heart problem is genetic” and added, “Your time too may come.” That shut me up and I forgot about it until Puneeth’s death.

Now panic has set in and in my mind’s eye, I see Madhuri thrustingly reminding me of my father’s warning, “My time is coming.”

My fear is legitimate because my family has a history of heart attacks — I’ve lost two uncles and a younger cousin to heart disease. Also, these days it seems to be affecting everyone — women, young men, fit men, vegetarians, non-vegetarians, teetotallers, yoga gurus, athletes — so everyone has a reason to worry about their heart health.

No wonder there was a rush at hospitals for ECG (Electrocardiogram) and Treadmill tests the day after Puneeth’s death. I’m not ashamed to admit, I was one among them.

I did it because, for far too long, I have taken my health for granted. I’ve been confident about my health based on the yardstick that as long as I can climb Chamundi Hill four times a week without huffing, puffing or stopping, I’m ok.

Also, I’ve been complacent about health check-ups as I had misguided confidence in my own in-house heart test — if I can climb four flights of stairs or 60 steps under a minute and can do 40 push-ups straight, I’m ok because the much respected Harvard Medical Journal says these two physical activities are indicators of good heart health. But…

When a fit Puneeth, the ambassador of the  ‘Prevent Premature Heart Attack’ initiative of Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, can have a heart attack, we have a reason to worry and get a proper medical check-up.

And so, a day after Puneeth’s death, I visited Gopala Gowda Shanthaveri Memorial Hospital for my ECG and Treadmill test. My test went off well.  And as I thanked my doctor and asked him, “So all ok doctor?” he replied, “Yes, all’s well, but one never knows.” That left me feeling hopeless that fitness doesn’t matter.

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But the good doctor added, saying, “Lead a balanced life,  be it food, work, stress, emotions, don’t overindulge in any of it.” Then he said something else that most doctors have been saying for a while now, which is heart problem is a lifestyle disease, in most cases.

The doctors are right. While some are genetically predisposed to heart issues, many more suffer it due to lifestyle choices and there is no doubt that prosperity has put our heart health at risk.

As our wallets have gotten thicker, so have our arteries. Prosperity has made us overindulge, be it food or any other form of consumerism. And this indulgent lifestyle has taken a toll, especially on middle-aged Indians.

A decade ago, a heart surgery would evoke shock and sympathy. Today heart disease-related phrases, acronyms and words like Coronary disease, ECG, Stent, Angiogram, CT Angio, TMT are all part of casual urban conversation.

Earlier, cardiac arrest, cholesterol, blood pressure etc., were topics discussed by older people, but today you hear these topics discussed among men in their mid 30s! I recently listened to a group of young men discussing a treatment called EECP (Enhanced External Counterpulsation), a mechanical form of treatment for angina (chest pain) as a preventive measure for artery-clogging !

No one ever imagined young men discussing which brand of “blood thinner” is better or how many milligrams of “Roseday” is best to control cholesterol, but these conversations are becoming passe. It’s also an indicator of how unhealthy we are becoming as a society.

Sadly it doesn’t scare us enough to make a lifestyle change. I fear Puneeth’s death will encourage cynical people to say, “If a fit Puneeth can die of a heart attack, then why should we bother exercising” and give up on being healthy, leaving life in the hands of fate and destiny. 

The frequency of heart attack cases around us nowadays has left me worrying and preparing. I’m worried if I’ll be able to figure out  is it a heart attack or a gastric problem, or if the pain in my left arm is a heart issue or just a muscle pain.

I’m prepared for the “heart event” by keeping a few Sorbitrate tablets on me at all times, so I can place this tablet under my tongue in case of an “occurrence” till I get to the hospital. I’ve   also bought an Apple iWatch that supposedly can take an ECG and if it’s off the mark, the iWatch will call the doctor !

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It’s obvious I’m paranoid, and that itself could induce a heart attack. I know that things can go wrong no matter how prepared one is, but why must one give up so easily on health and leave it to fate and destiny?

While I worried about my heart’s genetic flaw, I figured it’s not all bad. I could use my family history of heart disease to my advantage to get my family or friends to stop arguing and fulfil my demands. All I have to do is,every time they raise their voice, I have to grab my chest, heave a few times and, if possible, induce some sweat. This act will bring peace and my demands will be met.

But on the flip side, I hope karma doesn’t get to me and I suffer a real heart attack while playing dumb charades because my friends and family will keep guessing what I’m trying to act out instead of rushing me to the hospital !

While Puneeth’s death has shaken me enough to worry about my own heart, I also feel his loss.  Like most Kannadigas in their 40s, I grew up watching Master Lohith, the child actor. Back then, Puneeth was called Master Lohith. And Master Lohith sang the first Kannada movie song I learnt.  It was a song titled “Baana Daariyalli…” I will always associate this song with Puneeth and it’s poetic now with Puneeth’s passing away. The song goes like this …

Baana Daariyalli Soorya Jari Hoda

(On the path towards the sky, the sun slide down)

Chandra Mele Banda

(and the Moon came up)

Minugu Taare Anda, Nodu Entha Chenda

(then there were beautiful Twinkling stars, Oh! see how beautiful they are)

Raatriyaytu Malagu Nanna Putta Kanda, Nanna Putta Kanda

(But now it’s night and it’s time so sleep my little child, my little child)

Puneeth has left us to sleep, leaving many to weep and some like me too worried to sleep. Let’s hope his death has brought awareness about India’s biggest killer ‘heart disease’ and will make us re-look at our lifestyle and life itself.

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5 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Heart Troubles”

  1. swamy says:

    Now with your article you are giving us anxiety and heart attack :-). Good writing, but you failed to discuss what to do to have good life style to prevent heart attack.

  2. Gusto says:

    Interesting to note that cardiologists in India suffer from heart problems, for example, Nayeem, who has written about it. I wonder why these problems were not noticed in Mysuru a few decades ago, when people walked to work and cycled, there was no car culture and fast food was relatively unknown. Mysuru , today has dozens of heart clinics, ECGs and treadmill testing have become the norm. Why? Yankee style, intense gym exercises while driving for work do not help. All these exercise fanatics that I know in the US, visit heart clinics, spending thousands of Dollars, while eating meat and drinking filtered black coffee!
    If one ‘s diet is plant-based food, one does not need vigorous exercise aside from fast walks or runs.
    Whilst expensive private health care US-style has become the norm in Mysuru, so are the health-related problems of \Mysoreans. The so called Hrudayalas, do not have the immediate presence of interventional cardiologist at the site, and when patients are brought in say in the evenings , nights or week ends, they are at the mercy of junior doctors. There are very few ambulances in Mysuru, with the expert paramedics who arrive within minutes and use defibrillators, as it happens in the West. The patient is dead by the time he/she reaches the hospital at a time when only junior doctors are available.
    The car culture, has introduced severe asthma , and people can die if oxygen is not administered on time. Pulmonary problems are killers too in Mysuru.
    Thanks to your PM Modi, who refused to promise emissions control by 2050 at the COP26 Conference in Glasgow, and while he can get expert medical care at the AIIMs, other mortals do not have that luck.

  3. Garadi Mane Questo says:

    After decades of indulging in meat-based meals and eggs-based breakfasts, the wisdom has dawned increasing number of Westerners including the great Arnold Schwarzenegger, that intense exercise to compensate for the above diet pattern will not go any good. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken to plant-based diet and so should be Mysoreans to beat the heart troubles. Nutrition and tee total habit are the key.

  4. Veronica says:

    Lovely Article. Don’t see this kind of wit and creativity in journalism nowadays. Keep writing.

  5. Nandini says:

    @Veronica
    Where do you see the creativity in this article?
    I see plenty of creativity mixed with wit in many articles in the Western press., not in Mysuru or in India.
    Creativity, for example in this context, would be when the author suggests government-funded initiatives to tackle this problem, arising out of bad nutrition and lack of simple exercises, not intensive ones,. The plethora of private hospitals and clinics which have emerged in recent decades in Mysuru and elsewhere, thrive on the population inflicted with this disease.
    As a poster said above, you have in Mysuru, a US-style private hospitals without the US-style specialists and emergency care.

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