Heart disease is India’s leading cause of death. However, a diagnosis does not necessarily entail a death sentence.
An article entitled “Why heart failure is not the end of the world” was recently published in the Times of India, highlighting the need for early diagnosis. They note that, in India, it is typical for an individual to only seek medical treatment once severe symptoms occur.
According to Dr Sandeep Seth, professor of cardiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), fifty percent of those diagnosed with heart failure at late stages die within a year. “Patients often don’t adhere to the drug regimen and lifestyle changes needed to halt the progression of the disease. This leads to high mortality,” he said.
A late-stage condition encompassed within the cardiac disease umbrella term is heart failure. While this may have proven lethal in decades past, modern medicine has developed the means by which to allow survival of even this severe condition. However, late diagnosis again proves lethal.
Heart failure refers to a condition in which progressive deterioration of the heart muscle leads to it being unable to efficiently pump blood through the body. Initially, the heart tissue adjusts to compensate for the weakened capacity to pump blood. This may take the form of enlargement of the heart, development of more muscle mass and the faster pumping of blood. This, however, is a temporary solution which may lead to its own issues such as increased risk of heart attacks. It will inevitably lead to fatigue, issues breathing, and chest pains.
Developments such as the Left Ventricular Assist Device have allowed patients to be kept in a healthier state while on the waiting list for a heart transplant, allowing the condition to become survivable.
Heart disease accounted for 28.1 percent of all deaths in India in 2016. As such a prominent concern, it would be assumed that screening programmes would be more prevalent. However, India suffers a severe shortage of cardiologists, leaving the vast population of Indians coping with heart conditions severely underserved.
If India is to cope with the considerable burden of heart disease, screening to facilitate early diagnosis are a must. Such an approach could forego the expensive, late-stage treatments such as transplants, as well as prevent a considerable portion of mortality rates, simply by detecting the diseases in their early stages where they can often be staved off with lifestyle changes or medication.
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