Cardiovascular diseases having become the leading cause of mortality in India. 25 to 30% mortality in our country is attributable to heart attacks, brain strokes and heart failure. The Global Burden of disease in India is estimated at age-standardized death rate of 272
per 100,000 population. It is higher than the global average of 235 per 100,000 populations. The other peculiarities in our country are a younger age at presentation, an accelerated course of disease and high mortality. Preventive strategies are therefore key to reduce this alarming trend because once it manifests, most treatment strategies are at best palliative. The World Heart federation and World Health Organization commemorates 29th September every year, as the World Heart day. It is the world’s biggest platform to spread awareness about heart diseases.
This year the challenge is even more intense. With over 5 million cases of COVID 19 already reported from India and numbers steeply increasing is a very scary issue. We are living in an un precedented era with our health care systems trying to work very hard and to their best, under severe financial constraints. Our responsibilities for individuals, the families and the vulnerable Societies health are therefore on a severe test. The future course of this viral disease is un-predictable but we do know that it is of utmost importance to take care of our heart for fighting this pandemic.
The theme of the World Heart Day 2020, is “heart to beat heart attack”. This becomes a challenge in the COVID times because the patients with cardiovascular disease are faced with a dual challenge. They are more prone to get a serious complication leading to a high mortality and also, they are scared to seek ongoing treatment for their ailing hearts. The messages which haunt them are “not to move out of our homes unless it is absolutely essential, in order to prevent getting infected or spreading infection”.
We therefore need to understand what it means to keep our hearts healthy to lead a Healthy Heart Life and also propagate this message to our loved ones, to our patients if we are health care workers and if we are employees to invest in the heart health of our employees. The measures are simple and very cost effective.
Use Heart to Make Better Choices: Healthy diet consisting of 4 to 5 servings of fruits, vegetables and greens daily, exercising for 30 to 45 minutes at least 5 times a week, saying no to tobacco in any form and keeping alcohol to minimum.
Use Heart to Listen to your Heart: If you have an existing heart problem, high blood pressure, diabetes or obesity, you need to continue all the treatment schedules meticulously. Don’t let COVID 19 stop your attending regular check-ups. These can very often be done virtually. However never avoid calling an emergency or rushing to a hospital if it is needed. It is safe and medical professionals are there to help you.
In case of COVID like symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath you should never feel shy of a testing under medical supervision. Early recognition always helps you and your family.
Use Heart for Society, Loved ones and Yourself:
The response of the community in general, individuals and business has been incredible during the pandemic. Extending support to each other, the health care personnel, and the vulnerable in the society has been a hallmark in our day to day life.
Use Heart to Thank the Healthcare Profession:
The pandemic has led to outpouring of support towards nurses, doctors, researchers and carers in the system. Never before has their role been so crucial, which all of them exhibited at the cost of even their lives at times. These frontline heroes have become our Heart Heroes.
Use Heart to Take Part:
Let us make this World Heart Day much more impactful than ever. Do something new to bring smile to the breaking and broken hearts.
Our group is launching a unique project under the auspices of “Gauri Healthy Heart Project (GHHP)” to bring in updated treatment protocols to existing patients with high BP, Diabetes or exiting heart disease. The current treatment of 100 patients with any of these problems, pre-selected by the district health authorities under the CMO, will be reviewed by well-known doctors from the state from internal medicine, Cardiology and Geriatrics. The treatment will be upgraded as per the current recommendations. All the 20 districts of Jammu and Kashmir will be visited over a period of ensuing 2 years.
A “healthy heart campaign” for the people of the region during the event will also be carried out by experts led by Prof Upendra Kaul, the Founder Director of the project. There will also be an interactive session with the doctors of each district on “How to optimize acute cardiac care” especially in emergency situations in the periphery.
The day long program of “GHHK” is being launched on the 29th of September this year, at Kupwara district Hospital. The activities would then extend, once a month sequentially to all the districts. The data of 2000 patients thus collected will be collated, presented and published to be used for improving the rural healthcare system of J and K. Batra Hospital and Medical Research Centre, New Delhi and “Umeed Foundation” will be the NGO partner. Ajaz Rashid and Nasir Lone will be the CEO and Project directors respectively. The Scientific and Research component will be headed by Ms Priyadarshini Arambam.
We do hope, with the launch of this program a new concept in our health care system in the rural Jammu and Kashmir can be introduced under the supervision of the district administrations.
(Note: The author wishes to acknowledge the use of publicity material and slogans of the World Heart Foundation for World Heart Day 2020)
Prof Upendra Kaul is a Cardiologist, Past President of Cardiological Society of India, Recipient of Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy Award.