Your lifestyle choices affect your heart, choose wisely

09:08 AM Jan 12, 2022 | PTI |

New Delhi: In India, we all are foodies and love tasty spicy food with ghee ka tadka and mitha after the meal. But we don’t think of long-term effects of developing Diabetes, Hypertension, and Heart Failure, not only due to our eating habits but also with our sedentary lifestyle and no exercise choice. India is the diabetic capital of the world and ranks third in the global obesity index. More than 20% of the population is diagnosed with heart failure in India, and patients are ten years younger than the global average. The lack of awareness about the disease is a matter of great concern. There is an urgent need to educate people about heart failure and its management. To create awareness and spread knowledge about Heart Failure, The Times of India started the initiative Beat Heart Failure in partnership with Novartis to impart not only information to develop a better understanding but also effective management. The leading doctors from Global Hospitals, Mumbai, joined the discussion, namely. ·


Dr. Praveen Kulkarni: Sr Consultant Interventional Cardiologist · Dr. Pravin Kulkarni: Sr Consultant CVTS, Lead-Heart Transplant Programme Problem Dr. Praveen Kulkarni took the lead and explained about heart failure and its symptoms. He said – Heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump blood commensurate with the requirement of the body. The heart’s function is to pump blood in every beat. It results in under-perfusion and under-delivery of nutrients to the organs, resulting in various symptoms when it fails to do so. But when there is a heart attack, blood flow to the heart suddenly becomes blocked. Without the blood coming in, the heart can’t get oxygen. If not treated quickly, the heart muscle begins to die. But if you do get quick treatment, you may be able to prevent or limit damage to the heart muscle. In a country with a population of more than 135 crores, it is estimated that almost half a crore of the Indian population suffers from this disease and needs treatment said, Dr. Pravin. Dr. Praveen explained that the symptoms of heart failure are easily overlooked as signs of old age. The common symptoms of heart failure are easy fatigue, which may gradually increase with the progress of the disease.

The person may start to feel tired even at rest. Breathlessness is another common symptom in the early stages. It may occur during exertion, and gradually it may increase to breathlessness while taking just a second flight of stairs. People have difficulty doing their basic activities as the disease slowly progresses due to breathlessness. People wake up with a choking sensation and immediately open a window for more air. Other symptoms include swelling of feet (called pedal edema), retention of fluid in the abdomen (called ascites), and bloating sensation in the abdomen. The appearance of the symptoms can be early (called acute) or late (more than six months called chronic). The physician assesses whether the condition is symptomatic or asymptomatic. Next, they check whether the symptoms correlate with the findings. Talking about the systematic progression leading to the incidence of heart failure, Dr. Pravin explained about different stages – The first is when there are no symptoms.

The second stage is walking wounded; the patient complains of fatigue on exertion. The third stage is homebound; a person does not want to leave the house because of easy tiredness. Fourth, when a person has to visit the cardiologist often. Fifth, when a person has repeated heart failure and needs to be taken to the hospital frequently, followed by the stage of being hospital-bound where the person requires constant monitoring by the doctor and regular medications. The next is when the person continues to be sick, and the disease worsens and requires artificial support. A heart transplant is an option when no other treatment works. Among the common risk factors for developing heart failure are patients with natural aging coexisting with comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, stress, and lack of exercise or excessive exercise. In cases of uncontrolled diabetes, a patient can have a silent heart attack where they don’t even feel the pain of heart attack.

This symptom is known as autonomic neuropathy or, in simpler words, damage to the nerves that manage typical symptoms, and due to the injury, pain signals are not transmitted to the brain, and the patient does not know that they are having a heart attack. Striking & scaring people in the younger age basket (Men & Women) seems to be the heart failure victims of lifestyle choices. More than fifty percent of heart failures in India arise due to lifestyle choices. In Urban India, the majority of heart diseases are due to obesity, alcohol, smoking, or in simpler words, due to poor lifestyle choices. On the contrary, valvular heart diseases are more common in rural India or amongst lower strata of society, said Dr. Praveen Kulkarni.


He further added that the valves weaken due to a condition referred to as rheumatic heart disease that occurs due to bacterial infection. Rheumatic heart disease has been eradicated worldwide but is still prevalent in India due to poor hygiene and overcrowding. Valvular heart disease is a kind of bacterial infection or innocuous throat infection. In a few untreated and undiagnosed cases, this infection attacks the valves, causing valve dysfunction. The occurrence of valvular heart disease in India is seen in the age group of 5-15 years. Dwelling upon this aspect of heart failure, the doctor said it was preventable and treatable. The patient with valvular heart disease feels breathless going up the slope, with palpitations and swelling on the legs.

The cardiologist performs 2D echo, sonography easy and non-invasive way of looking at the heart, and grades it into mild, moderate, severe. If the disease is mild to moderate, the attempt is to preserve the natural heart. Surgeries are available if severe damage to the heart and the patient is profoundly symptomatic. The surgeon attempts to replace the damaged valves with a new one. Surgery will change the course of the disease, and the heart will perform better, stated Dr. Pravin. In patients who have sustained a heart attack, timely detection and treatment are paramount in the first few hours. It is difficult for people to access a tertiary health center in rural areas. Often, their symptoms go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as acidity, indigestion, muscle ache, anxiety. It’s crucial to treat the people within a time frame before significant damage happens. After a heart attack, the blood vessel gets blocked and causes damage to the heart’s muscles.

Delay in treatment will further increase the damage to the heart. The patients eventually get the treatment they require, but the resultant heart is weaker than the normal state. The treatment options may include medication, lifestyle changes, support from artificial instruments, surgical options like bypass surgery, explained Dr. Praveen Kulkarni A heart transplant is also a viable option for the severely damaged heart after a doctor’s evaluation that other potions may not work. Indians need to be educated about organ donation to make more organs available for transplant.

The majority of people with heart disease lead a good life, and longevity of life depends on the extent of damage to the heart. Even if a person exhibits no symptoms, it is necessary to get the basic parameters checked annually, such as lipid profile, kidney function test, liver function test, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. Depending on the results of these testing further treatment is planned by your primary care physician said, Dr. Praveen Kulkarni.

Heart failure is not a death sentence and is eminently treatable with changes in lifestyle and medications. After being diagnosed with heart failure, people need to make specific lifestyle changes that hamper their quality of life. Cardiologists suggest fundamental changes such as avoiding packaged foods, eating a balanced meal, controlling sugar consumption, exercising regularly, avoiding smoking, and watching their weight. With the advancement in medical science, many medications are available to manage heart disease. Remember, heart failure isn’t about stopping. It’s about starting life in a new way.

Heart failure can be managed with regular treatment and the right lifestyle modifications. To know more about how to manage heart failure, visit Disclaimer: “The views and opinions expressed in the article by the panelists/experts are based on their independent professional judgment and are disseminated in the public interest. These views should not be considered as a substitute for the professional advice of a registered medical practitioner. The purpose of this article is not to promote any medical procedures or medication and/or recommend a certain doctor. For any specific health issues, please consult your registered medical practitioner.”


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