Awareness about cardiac diseases and diabetes is spreading. However, there are still some aspects which need to be taken into account. Dr. Abhay Sham Gokhle, Cardiologist and Diabetologist, says that a person is susceptible to heart disease any time after the age of 30. Significantly, Indians get heart disease 10-15 years before the people from Western countries.
First of all, is any chest discomfort equal to heart disease? According to Dr. Gokhle, “Actually chest discomfort is a symptom. The discomfort could be due to acidity, Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD) or bronchial problem, where phlegm gets collected in the lungs blocking the passage of air. Expert opinion is a must in such a situation.”
Diseases of the heart are congenital or acquired. Congenital heart diseases are present from birth and can manifest anytime in life, depending on the severity of the disease.
Acquired heart diseases are hypertension, IHD and pulmonary hypertension. As the heart is basically a pump supplying blood to all parts of the body, the common symptoms of heart diseases are related to failure as a pump or abnormal beating (palpitation).
Palpitation is occasionally missing of heartbeats. Dr. Gokhle warns, “It is fairly common in young individuals, women included, but when the heart takes up persistent irregular rhythm, it may be a sign of arrhythmia (variation from normal rhythm, i.e. in heart’s action). If the rhythm disturbance is accompanied by symptoms of weakness, fatigue, chest pain, fainting or breathlessness, a person should seek medical attention, immediately.”
Women above 65 have 13% chances of developing IHD over 10 years. The risk multiplies, depending on the presence of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and smoking (active and passive).
Coronary artery disease is another of the heart related problems. It is any disorder in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart. He enumerates, “The risk factors for the development of atherosclerotic coronary artery disease include family history, high level of lipids (fats) in blood, again diabetes and smoking, sedentary lifestyle and stressful life.”
Recorded incidence of Type 2 diabetes or adult diabetes, itself, has significantly increased over the years. He explains, “This type of diabetes usually occurs in people over 30 years of age. Since its onset is gradual, its diagnosis is often missed. Such women usually have a family history of diabetes.”
Heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in older women. At the same time, he assures, “The risk can be reduced by awareness, regular checkups, lifestyle modification, giving up smoking and regular breathing exercises.”
His advice, “Women with family history of diabetes, hypertension or IHD need periodic checking of blood pressure and blood sugar. A majority of people with diabetes are obese. The association between obesity and type 2 diabetes is well established. Obesity increases the risk of diabetes, complicating its medical treatment. Furthermore, mortality is greater in overweight women than in slimmer women suffering from diabetes.”
Diet, exercise and oral medication can effectively control hyperglycaemia (diabetes) though insulin may be required in the later years.
This article first appeared in Eve’s Times, a Citizen-Centric magazine.