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Disease profile: Cardiac disease

Cardiac disease is India’s biggest killer. This fact is true by a wide margin. Heart disease accounted for 28.1 percent of all deaths in India in 2016, making it one of the most pressing health concerns the nation has ever faced.

Yet, despite losing 1.7 million lives to heart disease every year, India does not have enough cardiologists to manage the burden. India needs 88,000 cardiologists to effectively cover the population. It has just 4,000.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in India - and there may be a correlation with wealth.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in India

Prevalence and risk factors


As a non-communicable condition, the rate of cardiac disease is defined by the prevalence of its risk factors. Some of these factors include an unhealthy diet with a large amount of junk food (fried food, sugary desserts, lack of fruit and vegetables) or a sedentary lifestyle with little exercise.

These risk factors tend to be far more common in urban environments where an abundance of unhealthy food is available almost everywhere, often at a lower cost than healthy alternatives.

Urban environments also provide a number of sedentary jobs. Many of these occupations in which being sat at a desk all day is common make sedentary lifestyles with little exercise commonplace. A lack of exercise is another key risk factor for cardiac disease, as is obesity, typically a symptom of both diet and exercise.

Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, all wealthy states were found to have some of the highest rates of heart disease in the country.




Some early signs that might allow for early diagnosis of heart disease include chest pain, as well as pain in various other areas of the body such as the stomach, lower legs (that may include cramping), arms or the back. Many of these are non-specific, though if they are recurrent, a doctors appointment is recommended as conditions such as atherosclerosis or angina may be uncovered, which, if managed, could prevent a heart attack.

Heart attacks typically come with more severe. Acute chest pain is a hallmark symptom, though a heart attack may include other symptoms such as nausea, or pain spreading to the arms. Feeling dizzy or lightheaded may also be an indicator as blood flow will likely be restricted. Medical attention should be sought out immediately if a heart attack is suspected.


Prevention and treatment


Prevention methods typically involve reductions in lifestyle factors that are risk factors for cardiac disease. Improvements to the diet or the inclusion of exercise in a daily routine are simple adjustments that could stave off heart conditions. Quitting drinking or smoking may also be a change recommended by a doctor.

Depending on the cause of the issue with the heart, different medications may be suggested. In the case of high blood pressure, beta-blockers are typically suggested. Statins may be used if an individual is suffering from high cholesterol.

In the treatment of angina or as an emergency procedure in the case of a heart attack, a surgery known as coronary angioplasty is used. The procedure involves a balloon device being used to expand the blood vessel to circumvent a blockage. A wire mesh framework called a stent is then put in place to hold the blood vessel open and allow for normal blood flow.

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