World Heart Day 2014: Is India Staring at a Heart Disease Epidemic?

   |  Updated: September 29, 2014 12:48 IST

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World Heart Day 2014: Is India Staring at a Heart Disease Epidemic?
The threat of heart disease isn't a new one. It's been glaring at us for years, making us question every detail of our complicated lifestyle choices, diet and level of physical activity. It's been a leading killer in the West and has now aggressively made its way to India. 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 anywhere between 1.3 to 4.6 million, with an annual incidence of 491,600 to 1.8 million.

According to a report by published by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), one of the apex trade associations on the cardiovascular disease scenario in India, the country has seen a considerable increase in the number of heart disease cases over the past couple of decades. The report suggests that the leading cause of this is India's economic growth and urbanization. A large section of the population has adopted an unhealthy lifestyle combined with decreasing physical activity, increasing stress levels and a higher intake of saturated fats and tobacco.

According to Amar Singhal, head of the cardiology department of Delhi-based Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, "In India, heart ailments have replaced communicable diseases as the biggest killer. According to recent data, approximately 30 percent of the urban population and 15 percent of the population living in rural areas suffer from high blood pressure and heart attacks. As the risk factors of heart ailments increase, so does the mortality rate." He added, "The current scenario demands an immediate emphasis be laid on preventive healthcare. This involves raising awareness about the disease and its risk factors. Conducting public education programmes, workshops and counseling sessions for creating awareness at a mass level." (More: Eat good, workout for a strong heart)

Asserting that 2.4 million Indians die due to heart disease every year, Mr. K.K. Aggarwal, president of the Heart Care Foundation of India said, "The numbers continue to grow due to things like stress, unhealthy eating habits, lack of sleep and dependence on alcohol and cigarettes." Given the grim situation, there is an urgent need to create awareness about preventive factors and provide practical solutions. Anil Bansal, chief cardiologist at Gurgaon's Columbia Asia Hospital said, "We need to make a conscious effort to sensitize people about these diseases, the right course of treatment and preventive measures that will help them deal with cardiac problems. Even small changes in one's lifestyle and dietary habits can ward off the possibility of heart disease."

He added, "Over 50 percent of patients suffering from 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 Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. It can be performed anywhere and by anyone. (More: How to Survive a Heart Attack) Another important factor that should be highlighted is that every year 130,000 children in India are born with congenital heart disease and can still live a healthy life with timely intervention." (More: Heart-friendly foods and enemies of the heart)

To address this rising heart disease epidemic, the government had initiated an integrated National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancers, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Strokes but nothing much has been achieved on this front so far. A senior health ministry official who wished to remain anonymous said "Though the programme is being implemented in 100 districts of the country, much still needed to be done to make it effective."

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