World Heart Day is a campaign established to spread awareness about the health of heart among common people all through the world. A huge percentage of people suffer from heart diseases like stroke, heart attack, heart failure, etc., and heart problems are leading causes of deaths. World Heart Day is celebrated annually all over the world on 29th September and this year’s theme is “My Heart, Your Heart”. On the occasion of World Heart Day today, here we publish an interview with Dr. V. Keshavamurthy, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Mysuru. – Ed
Star of Mysore (SOM): Tell us about this year’s theme on World Heart Day?
Dr. Keshavamurthy: This year’s theme is about celebrating and connecting like-minded people. It is about creating a sense of commitment around common issues related to heart health. It is a concept that allows us to educate, inspire and motivate people to keep their hearts healthy. It’s about saying to ourselves and the people that we care for ourselves and everyone around the world.
SOM: Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) continues to be the leading cause of death.
Dr. Keshavamurthy: CVD is the world’s number one killer today. But it doesn’t need to be this way. By making just a few small changes to our lives, we can reduce our risk of heart disease and stroke, as well as improving our quality of life and setting a good example for the next generation. Controlling key risk factors such as diet, physical activity, tobacco use and blood pressure may reduce an individual’s risk of CVD.
SOM: What are the risk factors?
Dr. Keshavamurthy: The heart can become vulnerable from habitual risk factors like smoking, eating unhealthy diet or stress. The system can also be weakened from a pre-existing heart condition. When your heart’s functions become compromised, this is known as cardiovascular disease, a broad term that covers any disorder to the system that has the heart at its centre. Some risk factors such as family history that cannot be modified while other risk factors like high blood pressure can be modified with treatment. You will not necessarily develop cardiovascular disease if you have a risk factor. But the more risk factors you have the greater the likelihood that you will, unless you take action to modify your risk factors and work to prevent them.
SOM: What are the modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors?
Dr. Keshavamurthy: Modifiable risk factors include: Physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, high blood pressure, tobacco use, high cholesterol and being overweight. Non-modifiable risk factors include family history and diabetes. Other common non-modifiable risk factors include age. Old age is a risk factor for CVD and the risk of stroke doubles every decade after age 55.
Second is gender. Your gender is significant as men are at greater risk of heart disease than pre-menopausal women. But once past the menopause, a woman’s risk is similar to a man’s. Risk of stroke is similar for men and women. Third is ethnicity. Your ethnic origin plays a role as people with African or Asian ancestry are at higher risks than other racial groups. Also, a chronically stressful life, social isolation, anxiety and depression also increase the risk.
SOM: How to mitigate risk?
Dr. Keshavamurthy: Visit your doctor and ask for a few simple checks. Check your blood glucose levels. High blood glucose (blood sugar) can be indicative of diabetes. CVD accounts for 60 percent of all deaths in people with diabetes, so if it is left undiagnosed and untreated it can put you at increased risk.
High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for CVD. It’s called the ‘silent killer’ because it usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people don’t realise they have it. Cholesterol is associated with around 4 million deaths per year. Ask your doctor to measure your cholesterol levels and Body Mass Index as well as your blood pressure and blood glucose. He can advise you on your CVD risk so you can plan to improve your heart health.
SOM: What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?
Dr. Keshavamurthy: Over 70 percent of all cardiac and breathing emergencies occur in the home when a family member is present and could help a victim. Talk to your doctor about local cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) courses so you can help a loved one in the event of a heart attack. If you suspect a family member is having a heart attack or stroke, seek medical help immediately.
SOM: Any advice to people on World Heart Day?
Dr. Keshavamurthy: One must promise to eat well and drink wisely. Cut down on sugary beverages and fruit juices. Choose water or unsweetened juices instead. Swap sweet, sugary treats for fresh fruit as a healthy alternative. Try to eat 5 portions (about a handful each) of fruit and vegetables a day — they can be fresh, frozen, tinned or dried. Keep the amount of alcohol you drink within recommended guidelines. Try to limit processed and pre-packaged foods that are often high in salt, sugar and fat. Make your own healthy lunches at home
Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity 5 times a week or at least 75 minutes spread throughout the week. Be more active every day — take the stairs, walk or cycle instead of driving. Exercise with friends and family — you’ll be more motivated and it’s more fun !
Say no to smoking. It is the single best thing you do to improve your heart health. Within two years of quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is substantially reduced. Exposure to passive smoking is also a cause of heart disease in non-smokers.
This World Heart Day, it’s your opportunity to make a promise. A promise to cook and eat more healthily, to do more exercise and encourage your children to be more active, to say no to smoking and help your loved ones stop.