September 29 is celebrated as World Heart Day. This day is so important because there is an urgent need to raise awareness about our hearts!!! The World Heart Federation planned this day to bring attention to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), the different risk factors affecting our hearts, and the means to take care of these ourselves. The World Health Organization states that India accounts for one-fifth of deaths because of CVDs worldwide, especially in the younger population. Age-standardized CVD death rate of 272 per 100000 population has been reported in India by the Global Burden of Disease study. This is much higher than the global average of 235, which is why we need to raise awareness in an exponential way.
Looking at the different factors that weigh heavy on our hearts, the INTERHEART study, listed the following as the main risk factors accounting for almost 90% of Heart attacks (Acute Myocardial Infarctions) in the South Asian population. Let us look at how much they are affecting our hearts.
Elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
One out of 4 people in India have elevated blood pressure levels, which is very high when compared against other countries. Research shows that 40% of CVDs happen because of elevated blood pressure levels. Regular exercise and being physically active helps keep blood pressure levels in check.
One out of 10 persons aged 18 years and above have an increased blood sugar level in India. In 2017, India was reported to have the highest number of cases of diabetes (Sreeniwas Kumar A., et al). Unhealthy diets, a sedentary lifestyle with all work and no play, being overweight increase risk for diabetes. This risk can be reduced by staying physically active and having a healthy balanced diet.
High cholesterol levels (dyslipidaemia)
High levels of LDLs (low-density cholesterol), Low levels of HDLs (High-density cholesterol), elevated triglycerides are most commonly seen in the Asian population. The Indian Council of Medical Research did a study that shows approx 79% of Indians have an elevation in at least one of these parameters.
Tobacco smoking is one of the major risk factors for CVD. It is also one of the modifiable and reversible risks.
Obesity is increasing alarmingly in the urban population. Having a Body Mass Index (BMI) > 25 is considered a risk factor for CVDs. Obesity is also considered as one of the modifiable risk factors, which can help keep your heart healthy!
Dietary and lifestyle factors
Every second individual in India is physically inactive, and less than 10% of our population have regular physical activity as per the Indian Council of Medical Research–India Diabetes (ICMR–INDIAB) study. High carbohydrate diets with uneven dietary patterns, high-fat dairy, butter, ghee, and cheese in everyday meals are consumed in an average Indian diet. This is adding as an increased risk for the predisposition to CVDs. Having a good diet with a proper amount of vegetables and fruit intake is a healthier option for our hearts!
Let’s further dive into the genetic risk for CVDs. There are multiple genes that increase your risk of CVDs. There is no single gene that causes heart conditions. Coronary Artery Disease Genome-wide Replication and Meta-analysis study and other genome-wide association studies show that there are 109 points on our chromosomes, which are known to be associated with CAD and CVDs running in families. Studies also suggest that these genetic factors and the lifestyle, environmental and dietary factors (as mentioned in the list above) together increase your risk of developing CVDs.
So today, on this day, let’s make a promise that every day of every year we will remind ourselves and our loved ones about the importance of keeping our hearts healthy. Let’s encourage our friends and family to quit smoking, adapt to healthier lifestyles, follow a better workout routine, promote yoga and early screening for heart health so we can all prevent cardiovascular diseases and keep our hearts pumping as always!
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