India staring at heart disease epidemic

Heart Tread MillPoor lifestyles, rich diet and little physical activity have led to an “epidemic of heart disease” in India

and the only way to check this looming threat is through better awareness and preventive measures, health experts say.

According to government data, the prevalence of heart failure in India due to coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and rheumatic heart disease ranges from 1.3 to 4.6 million, with an annual incidence of 491,600-1.8 million.

According to a report by industry lobby Assocham on the cardiovascular disease scenario in India, the country has seen a rapid transition in its disease burden over the past couple of decades.

The report said this is largely because, with India’s economic growth and urbanization over the past decades, a large section of the population has moved towards unhealthy lifestyles with decreasing physical activity, increasing stress levels and increasing intake of saturated fats and tobacco.

“In India, heart ailments have replaced communicable diseases as the biggest killer,” Amar Singhal, head of the cardiology department of Delhi-based Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, told IANS.

“There is virtually an epidemic of heart disease in the country. According to estimates, approximately 30 percent of urban population and 15 percent of the population living in rural areas suffer from high blood pressure and heart attacks. As the risk factors for heart ailments ncrease, so does the mortality rate,” Singhal added.

He said the current scenario demanded that a lot of emphasis be laid on preventive healthcare, noting that “this involves raising awareness about the disease and its risk factors”.

“Conducting public education programmes and workshops and counselling sessions for generating awareness at a mass level is the need of the hour,” he said.

Asserting that 2.4 million Indians die due to heart disease every year, Heart Care Foundation of India president K.K. Aggarwal said the numbers continue to grow due to common lifestyle factors such as stress, unhealthy eating habits, lack of sleep and dependence on alcohol and cigarettes.

Given this scenario, there is urgent need to raise awareness about preventive factors and provide practical solutions to the already
widespread problem, he said.

Anil Bansal, chief cardiologist at Gurgaon’s Columbia Asia Hospital, said: “We need to make a conscious effort to sensitize people about these diseases and the right course of treatment and preventive measures one need to take in order to deal with cardiac problems. Even small changes in one’s lifestyle and dietary habits can ward off the possibilities of heart diseases to a great extent”.

According to Aggarwal, it was important to espouse other life-saving techniques to prevent heart failure like CPR for revival after a sudden cardiac arrest.

“Over 50 percent of the patients suffering from a heart attack die just because they are unable to reach the hospital in time. What people are not aware of is that it takes only five minutes to learn the technique of CPR. It can be performed anywhere by anyone,” Aggarwal told IANS.

“Another important factor that needs public awareness is that 130,000 children in India are born with congenital heart disease every year and can live a healthy life with timely intervention,” he added.

Though the government, on its part, had initiated an integrated National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancers, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Strokes, not much has been achieved on this front.

“Though the programme is being implemented in 100 districts of the country, much still needed to be done to make it effective,” a senior health ministry official, who did not want to be named, told IANS.