How to prevent heart attacks

How to prevent heart attacks

by Sanjay B

It may be interesting to note that while several Western countries are shunning fast food sausage, hamburger and pizza, they are at the top popularity in India, where eating has become more a mechanical process than expression of culture and communication. High level of cholesterol due to indiscriminate use of fats and lack of physical activity are responsible for heart attack.

It is disturbing that while the West over the past two decades has been able slow the pattern, it is not the same in India where the incidence of heart disease is fast growing. In 1986 the incidence of death due to communicable diseases was 478 per one lac population and the incidence of death due to heart attack was 145 per one lac population while in 2000 the incidence of deaths due to communicable diseases declined significantly to 215 per lac of population. The incidence of deaths due to heart attacks rose sharply to 253 per lac of population. According to a WHO estimate the projected figures of deaths due to heart attacks by 2015 may well go up to 293 per one lac population in India thus occupying the position of killer no. 1. As of now over 7.5 crore Indians are suffering from heart diseases. The most unfortunate aspect of the problem is most of the sufferers are unaware of their affliction and many others do not bother for minor complaints such as breathlessness on exertion. There is little wonder then about 25 lac people die of attacks annually.Previously the incidence of heart disease could be seen in people over 55 years of age but now more & more young people are victims of the disease. Out of 1500 people who underwent bypass surgery at Dharmavira Heart Centre of Sir Gangaram Hospital, New Delhi during 1998-2001, as many as 116 were below 40 years. It is no longer a disease of the rich as was thought of previously Nor is it confined to male folk. The new statistics from British Heart Foundation reveal that out of 35 million new cases of the Cardiac disorders diagnosed in the U.K. each year nearly half are women aged 25 to 34. A recent study in India testifies that cardiac problem is roping in more & more Indian women. Growing urbanization, continuing dependence on saturated fats and vegetable ghee, dairy products, indulgence in excessive smoking, obesity growing incidence of diabetes mellitus and sedentary lifestyles have greatly helped accentuating heart disorders.

What is Heart Attack ?

The blood vessels of heart known as coronary arteries become narrow and or there is clot giving rise to blockage of arteries responsible for diminished blood flow to heart, resulting more often into crushing pains that are usually felt behind the breast bone, the left side of the chest or down one or both arms. It can also be felt going up into the jaws and throat and less commonly between the shoulder blades. If untreated, it may lead to heart attack characterized by lowering of blood pressure, cardiogenic shock and diminished blood flow to kidneys.

Risk Factors may be split into reversible and irreversible factors. Irreversible factors are age and family history (genetic predisposition) while reversible factors are high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, increased levels of cholesterol and lack of exercise. We may not do much about irreversible risk factors, although there have been some studies, of late, which outplay the role of genes in heart attacks. In the biggest ever study of 1.20 lack heart patients in the United states, the researcher Dr. Eric Topol of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, has remarked, “If we could eliminate smoking and get people to be fit and trim, we could turn this thing around without unraveling the genes that cause heart disease.”

High blood pressure is the consequence of stress and faulty life style. There are about 5 crore people suffering from hypertension in India, as defined as blood pressure over 140/90, but if it includes the “high normal’s” the figure could well be 20 crore. Urban youth is far more stressed out than their grandparents as they are less willing to invest in pure enjoyment. A report in ‘Psychology Today’ reveals, thus, “they catch the news to be well-informed, see the latest films and read the right books to be “current”. If they walk, swim or play tennis it is with one eye on performance and results’. Highly structured purposeful leisure is equivalent to work. It leaves us as open to tension, anxiety and depression.

Diabetes is yet another risk factors in heart problems. According to a rough estimate one in 8 adults in urban India is diabetic and every fourth person is a potential victim. In a study conducted by the National Urban Diabetes Society covering 11,216 individual in six major cities of Bangalore, Chennai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Mumbai the prevalence of diabetes was as high as 13.2 percent, while an additional 14.2 were found to be impaired glucose tolerance (1GT). According to a WHO projection the diabetic population may swell to 30 crore out of which India and China may jointly account for 11 crore by 2025. Recent researches indicate that diabetic is more prone to cardiac abnormality due to its linkage to high (LDL) cholesterol. What is threatening is that even the low income group is fast emerging as victim of diabetes mellitus.

Obesity is another major risk factor. Overdependence on ‘fast foods’ high fat diet with little or no
physical activity leads to obesity. The obese population world-wide is alarmingly high at 1 billion out of which 30 percent are dangerously fat. In India obesity among adolescent and youth is fast growing which is evident from the factthat more and more cases of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are reported in the hospitals. It may be interesting to note that while several Western countries are shunning fast food sausage, hamburger and pizza, they are at the top popularity in India, where eating has become more a mechanical process than expression of culture and communication. High level of cholesterol due to indiscriminate use of fats and lack of physical activity are responsible for heart attack. Although some recent studies suggest that people who had heart attacks held normal cholesterol, but in any case high cholesterol is still an important risk factor.

In the same manner sedentary life style is also accountable to a large extent for this disorder. During a three year study, patients aged 40 and older who exercised less than 30 minutes each week had nearly triple the risk of developing cardiac disorder than the patients who exercised for at least a half hour weekly. The protective effect of exercise remained regardless of age, gender, smoking and additional diseases, according to a report published recently in Archives of Internal Medicine.

Indian Physicians have begun to realize that they have a problem on then-hands and the cost of curative treatment being prohibitively high the only solution lies modification of life styles. Coronary blockages occur due to risk factors related to faulty living and the treatment should be rectification of faulty lifestyles. Bypass surgery or angioplasty provide only temporary relief to the cardiac sufferer because bad lifestyle that clog arteries (thereby impeding blood flow) are equally good at repeating the mischief with artificial grafts created by the surgeon. Thus conventional treatment doesn’t really contain the disease process but provides only a brief respite to the sufferer. Here are few tips which offer both protective as well as curative effects:

Tips for Protection


Stress ought not to be a killer in the first place, nor haste, as believed by Dr. Barnard. If it hinders one’s work performance, it should be properly managed through relaxation techniques. The mind can be trained to focus on one’s own body parts while lying on a blanket. Imagine that limbs are relaxed starting from toes upwards eventually concentrating on the chest while breathing slowly and deeply. It can be practiced in the morning and after the work before going to bed and while in the office during a break. Palming is yet another effective yogic act which may be practiced in the morning. Sit cross-legged and then close eyes with palms and fingers touching gently the forehead. Breathe deeply and slowly. Bhastrika Pranayama is also considered very effective for improving functioning of cardiopulmonary system but it should be practiced under expert guidance.


The important thing about walking is to maintain beneficial rhythm and even pace. The heart must keep pumping at an optimum level which may vary from person to person. It expands lungs and strengthens the heart muscles and improves blood circulation. It is important to walk correctly and in the fresh air. Keep the spine upright and do not slouch. Movements should be smooth and relaxed instead of jerky and abrupt. Swing your arms and push the elbows as high as possible. Let the heel touch the ground first and then the forefoot and toe to derive maximum benefit from walking.

Improved food habits

Calorie restriction is the cornerstone of longer life span and weight reduction. Researches have shown that the vegetarian diets have several other benefits such as better memory, reduction in risk of heart problems and cancers. A good vegetarian diet should be nutritionally sound in terms of normal bodily needs. It should offer proper nourishment so as to avoid hunger pangs, the absence of which indiscriminate eating between meals takes place. Junk food should be avoided altogether and also the visible fats. The National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad even suggests reduction of invisible fats such as whole milk. Foods which are rich source of fats and cholesterol (such as cake, pastry, ice-creams, ghee and chocolates) should be avoided altogether.

Pulses, legumes, cow pea, green leafy vegetables and spices such as fenugreek and mustard seeds meet the requirement of fatty acids-alpha linolenic acid.

Good sleep and proper exercise

A good sleep gives body a chance to recover from stressful life. Adequate sleep is necessary for general mental and physical health as well. Recent researches have shown that deep sleep increases production of a growth hormone which speeds the metabolic rate and burns off calories. Likewise exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood clots. Proper exercise is very useful because of its protective effects and curative value in heart problems. PREKSHA YOGA is also recommended for heart patients. It has been reported to result in regression and prevention of atherosclerosis-the process that results in narrowing of arteries (heart attack), brain blood vessels and other arteries of the body. Proper cardiac care is necessary, but it is through life style management that one can take care of his heart.

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