AIIMS doctors call for comprehensive interventions to tackle growing burden of cardiovascular diseases

New Delhi: An alarming increase in cardiovascular diseases in India has been witnessed in the recent times, AIIMS doctors said on World Heart Day on Friday and emphasised the urgent need for comprehensive interventions to tackle the growing burden.

According to a research reported in The Lancet, cardiovascular diseases accounted for 26.6 per cent of all fatalities in 2017, a significant rise from the 15.2 per cent recorded in 1990.

“This heightened prevalence and susceptibility of cardiovascular diseases among the Indian population can primarily be attributed to epidemiological, demographic, nutritional, environmental, socio-cultural, and economic transitions. At the same time, there is an elevated inherent biological risk unique to Indians,” Dr Sandeep Seth, Professor of Cardiology, AIIMS New Delhi, said.

India has undergone a nutritional transition characterized by a decline in healthy food consumption and an increase in processed and high-salt foods.

Socio-cultural and economic shifts such as urbanisation and reduced physical activity have fuelled cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors like high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, he said.

Addressing these challenges calls for a public health approach. Proven strategies from low-to-middle income countries, like taxing tobacco and sugar-sweetened beverages, regulating processed and salt-rich foods, banning trans-fats, improving the built environment, and promoting physical activity through school health programmes, can be effective, Dr Seth said.

“Effective implementation of evidence-based care is essential to reduce the CVD burden in India. The need for evidence-based interventions to combat the growing CVD epidemic has never been greater than now,” he said.

In recent times, there has been a concerning trend of rising heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrests among younger individuals in India, stated Dr Ambuj Roy, Professor of Cardiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here.

“In my clinic, I have observed an increase in the number of younger patients with cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks compared to five to seven years ago. This could partly due to better diagnostics methods and medical awareness,” he said.

Regarding the tests that can predict the risk of impending heart attacks, Roy said, “All adults above 25 years of age should have their blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar tested to know their risk for heart disease. Simple calculators can assess one’s risk for heart disease. Based on the scores generated by these calculators, your physician can treat you with heart preventive medicines. So it’s important to know your scores and track your heart health.”

Roy further underscored the importance of reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and improving heart health, saying, “at an individual level, there is a need to focus on healthier diets, more physical activity, and giving up tobacco/alcohol.”

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