World Heart Day: Increased awareness and early action

World Heart Day is observed on 29 September each year with focus on prevention of the disease among women and children this year.

Cardiovascular disease will be the cause of over 40% deaths in India and the largest cause of death and disability in India by 2020 as per a World Health Organisation (WHO) report. While the numbers are alarming, it is heartening to note that most of the premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided if the main risk factors, tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, are controlled.

On this occasion, Dr. N. Madhu Sankar, Chief Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Apollo Hospital, Chennai takes on questions ranging from prevention of the disease to its treatment in children.

Cardiovascular disease affects as many women as men. Is this true?
Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death for adult women. Women are 3 times more likely to die of cardiovascular diseases than of breast cancer.

What lifestyle changes are required for a woman to have a healthy heart?
Exercise, a healthy, low-fat diet and stress reduction are essential.

How can the growing number of childhood CVDs be prevented?
Education, preventive check up and early action will help in reducing the problem.

Is it important to control cholesterol in children?
More than cholesterol control, it is important to keep the child’s weight in check. The child should be given healthy food, encouraged to play or exercise and prevented from eating junk food to keep the BMI right. It is important to avoid peri-abdominal obesity to prevent heart disease.

Do children require routine health exams for a healthy heart.
No blood tests in terms of cholesterol are required. General health parameters can be checked.

How is childhood heart disease treated?
Heart disease can be divided in 2 groups
Birth defect: Some children are born with heart disease – a hole in the heart – commonly called the blue baby syndrome. This is corrected by surgery.

Valvular heart disease: Here the heart’s valves can be defective. The best way to tackle this condition is for schools to include a heart check up during school admission. Once a child has been detected with valvular heart disease, he can be operated on at the age of 4 or 5 before he is admitted to school. The child is old enough to withstand the surgery and it gives him enough time to recover before he joins school.