It is 29th of September and it is the World Heart Day. The day is an opportunity for everyone to stop and consider how best to use heart for humanity, for nature, and for ourselves. To beat cardiovascular disease is something which matters to every beating heart.
Heart is a unique pump which beats un-interruptedly on an average 100,000 times a day and an average of 2.5 billion time in the life time of an individual. It cannot afford to take even a nap of few minutes, because it would mean death unless a machine is made to pump blood during that period.
Health of an individual is largely dependant on a healthy functioning of this incredible muscular pump which has so far not been duplicated. Mechanical heart is an extremely poor imitation nowhere near the efficiency and safety of the nature’s given heart and has several other serious issues.
This day is a creation of the World Heart Foundation with a purpose of making public at large aware of the ways and means to keep this organ in good shape for the lifetime.
The theme for this year is “Cardiovascular Health for Everyone”. Three pillars – Three Key beneficiaries have been advocated as the means to achieve it
Heart for Humanity:
It is of utmost importance to recognise the fact that non-communicable diseases with cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are responsible for over 75% deaths in low to middle income countries. The access to treatment is a major issue and by getting involved in spreading the awareness of this by way of prevention and also early recognition of events like a heart attack and stroke is a very important step. The risk factors of CVD are well known like; tobacco use, overweight, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol levels in blood, lack of exercise, poor intake of fruits and vegetables and stress.
These risk factors explain at least 90% of the heart attacks in all geographies and races. Persons having presence of more than one of these risk factors are at a risk which is several folds higher. Regular check-ups and taking measures if any of these risk factors is present is an essential preventive strategy. Preventive health check-ups which are available in many medical centres have not been used adequately with the result first time when a person becomes aware of their importance is after a vascular event like a heart attack or a stroke.
The number of deaths in India due to cardiovascular diseases in year 2020 were around 4.75 million and in the UT of J&K an estimated number of 1.4 million. In addition, we also see a large number of deaths occurring in young people below the age of 40 years. This is very concerning and needs preventive measures.
These measures have to come from all of us which include, voluntary bodies, panchayats, the media and NGOs besides the administrators. Gauri Kaul Foundation is one such NGO which has been making a serious effort to spread its “No Heart attack Mission” for more than a year now. It has already covered 6 districts of the UT, from Machil in Kupwara, Hawal in Pulwama and Jagti in Jammu.
In these 3 centres telemedicine units and qualified staff has been placed to manage individuals with risk factors screened by ASHA workers, who work at the field level . Aim being to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Those who already have suffered one it needs management so that a recurrence can be prevented.
Heart for Nature:
Air pollution is responsible for 25% of CVD deaths worldwide. An estimated 7 million lives are lost every year because of this menace.
Medical studies have shown that air pollution can trigger heart attacks, abnormalities of rhythm of heart and paralytic strokes. Very small and minute particles are the culprits of greatest concern. These are found in smoke, dust, haze and the exhausts emanating from factory outlets and vehicles. These contain toxins like nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone and second-hand cigarette smoke. People more than 45 years of age, persons with a family history of heart disease. Persons suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, smokers, obese and physically inactive persons are especially prone to the ill effects.
The larger solution however is in having clean air legislation, reduce the vehicles on roads, replace walking or cycling instead of travelling by car. Our valley is blessed with much lower levels of pollution in comparison to several other metros of the country. The city of Srinagar however is seeing it increasingly with lot of dust and vehicular smoke. This evil needs to be nipped in the bud. Planting trees in your compound or the neighbourhood should be encouraged.
Heart for Yourself:
Phycological stress is known to double the risk of heart attack. Stress can be caused by a physical or emotional change, or a change in your environment that requires you to adjust or respond. Things that make you feel stressed are called “stressors.” These can be minor hassles, major lifestyle changes, or a combination of both. The UT especially the Kashmir valley has been a witness of plenty of stress in the last more than 3 decades with militancy and its aftermath. It is therefore imperative to evolve methods at an individual level to manage it by some of the ways described below.
Coping up with stress can have several solutions like eating and drinking sensibly. Avoiding alcohol, asserting yourself, stopping smoking, and regular aerobic exercise and relax every day and have adequate sleep. It is also important to take up only those assignments which you can do and leave behind what is beyond your control. Being ambitious is good but greediness brings in stress. A fine balance is therefore essential.
Final Words of Wisdom:
Bringing in healthy heart for the community needs several steps. It starts with using the heart for humanity and prevent heart related events by preventive methods of not acquiring adverse risk factors by healthy eating and proper exercise as a routine. Risk factors like high BP, raised blood cholesterol, diabetes and obesity needs a supervised treatment. Use heart for nature by minimizing air pollution and adopting means to avoid its impact and contribute to a healthier surrounding and finally use heart for yourself also by avoiding psychological stress. Exercise, meditation, good thoughts and getting enough quality sleep are crucial to achieve it.
Prof Upendra Kaul, Cardiologist and Founder Director, Gauri Kaul foundation
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.