While India is poised to become the most populous country in the world during the next decade overtaking China, the population of our country is by no means all that healthy. Compared to several other countries of the world, more and more people are falling prey to coronary Heart Disease in India, making it justifiable to say we are passing through an epidemic phase for heart related health problems in the country, with not less than 30% of patients who die succumbing to cardiac problems. NRI Achievers spoke to Dr. Vijay Kumar Gupta, Professor & Head of the Department, Cardiologist & Vascular Surgery, at the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi.


How serious a problem is Coronary heart Disease for India ?

It is a very serious and important problem for our country, as it is now expanding to epidemic proportions. Especially as we are seeing much younger patients in whom the problem is occuring in our country compared to European and other populations. We are seeing 10-15% more younger patients in India who are suffering from this Coronary artery problem. About 20-40% of all patients are below the age of 45 years. So it is indeed a worrying scenario.

What is the main reason behind this ?

At least 40% of Coronary artery patients are diabetic in India, and the problem is that the disease itself is very diffused. Here we also see that this is a reason for the whole artery getting blocked. It may be due some genetic factors but usually it is because of smoking, hypertension, diabetics, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and utter lack of exercise. These are the main things which bring forth this state of affairs. Most of our patients also neglect their diet, their cholesterol levels are high, and obesity at their waist is alarming … all main factors leading to Coronary artery problems.

Why are Indians so careless about their own well-being ?

We Indians generally tend to be reactive rather than proactive, when it comes to health and well-being. So unless there are recognizable symptoms, we do not undertake any preventive measures. One should not wait till symptoms surface, but instead adopt a healthy and active lifestyle to combat such illnesses that creep upon you. Like someone saying that he is smoking but is still healthy. So prevention of any problem is better than treating it.

What according to you is the right age to get into routine treatment ?

In India, children of age 18~20 years are today starting to get cardiac problems. If you are diabetic prone, you should start routine treatment or therapy at around the age of 30~35. If you are healthy, non-diabetic, with no hypertension etc., then starting from the age of 40 years one should at least go for regular medical checkups which will include one ECG, treadmill test etc., to diagnose likely problems.

What are tests which one should always go through ?

One should always get blood pressure checked, and blood sugar, 1 ECG, x-ray tests. These are the basic tests for people above the age of 40 years.

What do you have to say about contemporary eating and drinking habits of Indians ?

Indians I see are too fond of fried food, which I would say is very dangerous because it tends to increase the cholesterol levels, leading to deposits of the cholesterol in the corneal artery, and this invariably leads to a heart attack afterwards. Regarding alcohol, drinking alcoholic beverages in moderate amounts does not call for much concern, but still, I would not recommend that people drink alcohol. It may lead to excess, and excess of anything is bad. It may also lead to liver, kidney, pancreas and other problems.

Please explain the structure of heart to our readers.

Heart has got two major blood vessels, one to the right and one to the left. The Left side system is the dominant system which supplies around 70% of the blood to heart. In human beings, the heart starts beating in the foetus even when it is in the mother’s womb. The heart is also first organ which forms in the body of a foetus. 70 beats per minute. And it needs blood supply of its own for beating. It is the body’s blood supply and circulation system that gives energy to the muscles and tissues. So for that blood supply coronary arteries are there. And if these coronary arteries get blocked due to cholesterol deposits or smoking, it gives pain, which is called angina or arrhythmia. 50-60 % block will give only pain but if it is 100% blocked, it will cause a heart attack.

Can you explain why the younger generation is suffering this problem now ?

It’s hard to explain. There could be a problem in our genes which leads to early age corneal artery disease. Or maybe due to some infection. But it is definite that Indians do get this problem earlier in their lives when compared to other ethnic populations across the world. The Japanese for instance do not have this problem.

Do we have specialized treatment for this ?

In India, we have all the best facilities that are required to address this health malady. All types of drugs are available. Angioplasty, bypass surgery, all of these can be done in India with very good results as compared to US or UK.

Could you share what sort of precautions are warranted for combating this ?

As I have said, diet is important. Control of diabetes, blood pressure is important. And smoking in any form, cigarette, beedi, hukka, gutka, all this leads to corneal artery problems. So avoid all these things. Stress also plays a very important role in our society. We are very stressful in our daily routine. We are always in a hurry to finish our work and don’t give enough time for ourselves. One should not get so much stress into their daily routines. Do yoga and exercises. Keep smiling, that’s very easy to do.

Smokers say they get addicted to smoking. What is the way to quit smoking ?

Will power is the most important component. And secondly, when you see someone close to you suffering because of this, or if you see some patients in hospitals with cancer & heart attack problems, then it does tend to jolts you & take a decision to stop and drop the habit. And if you cannot do it at your own, then you could consult a psychiatrist.

Is there any research under way on how to quit smoking and any medicine ?

Yes there are medicines that help you stop smoking, and there are some centres that can help you in quitting this addiction.

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