Why Indians are dying from heart disease


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Indians and South Asians have a significantly higher risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases(CAD/CHD) at a young age, almost 4 times than Americans and 6 times higher than Chinese. There are several factors aggravating this epidemic:

Poor nutrition

Indian diet besides being high on carbohydrates, is found to be deficient in vitamins and phytonutrients, esp Vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid leading to high [homocysteine] levels and eventually high risk for CAD. A high level of homocysteine is associated with an increased risk for heart attack and stroke, with a magnified risk for those who smoke cigarettes.

Lack of Exercise

Despite the mushrooming of gyms and fitness centres as well as the growing popularity of fitness apps and virtual gyms, most Indians do not find time to exercise. Exercise is the easiest, cheapest and most convenient lifesaver. However about half of the adult India population is not reaching levels of physical exercise needed for good health.

Lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyle leads to higher inflammation and higher risk for heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and cancer. [C-reactive protein] (CRP) is a marker for inflammation

Genetic Predisposition

Increased amounts of Lipoprotein(a) in the body are associated with inflammation in the walls of the arteries. This can lead to hardening of the arteries ([atherosclerosis]). Indians have a lipid profile characterized by elevated levels of triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, elevated [lipoprotein(a)] levels.

Women are more susceptible to CAD in the age group between 40-50 than men, one of the reasons being it is a menopausal stage where their hormones are no longer protecting their health and secondly due to stress (of family, work and so on).

What can be done?

On account of the high risk as explained above, we need to be vigilant in terms of our health.  With proper lifestyle management and corrective medication the heart disease can be prevented and slowed down.

  1. Eat a diet rich in fruits and herbs: The vitamins and fiber from fruit are essential aspects of our daily nutrition. Cooked food has very little to no vitamins and phytonutrients left. Including turmeric, onion, garlic, ginger in the daily diet have been known to protect from the heart diseases.
  2. Find time to exercise: at least 45 mins three times a week. A simple walk can cut down the risk of inflammation by half.  Yoga and meditation to manage stress.
  3. Get periodic lab tests done:  especially of LP-a, CRP and homocysteine levels and especially if you have a family history of heart disease and are above the age of 50 years.

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