Friday, December 08, 2006

Open your eyes and save your heart

LittleIndia, a small magazine available freely in Indian grocery stores and restaurants and targeted towards Indians immigrants in America, ran a cover story on Killer Belly. It mostly talks about how recent research throughout the world has show how Indians, even seemingly healthy looking ones, are more inclined to having a heart disease and dying young. Dr. Enas A. Enas, Director of the Coronary Artery Disease among Asian Indians (CADI) Research Foundation and Advanced Heart Lipid Clinic in Downers Grove, Ill, and a clinical associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been doing this pioneering research since last 15 years. The article contains good anecdotal accounts of people getting heart diseases at a young age and lot of statistical data. This acted as a shock therapy for most of them as they got a bad wake up call when they were tested after their heart pain episodes. I know couple of my friends, who at a young age of 30, have to worry about decreasing their cholesterol. While you can read the article for more details, I will try and highlight some important points for my friends.

If you're an Indian woman and measure more than 32 inches or an Indian man over 35 inches, brace yourself.

U.S. studies have found that Indians in the United States have three to four times the heart disease rate of the mainstream U.S. population.

Indian men, no matter where they live, have one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world, even if they have low levels of traditional risk factors such as cholesterol. In fact, even non-smoking vegetarians under 40 who exercise regularly may be at high risk.

Under mainstream standards, a BMI of 25 is considered normal, 25-30 is considered overweight and more than 30 is considered obese.

Dr. Enas says:
A BMI of 23-25, which is normal for Americans, is considered overweight for Indians and 25 becomes obese

Indians have a genetic predisposition and if you have a family history you know you have a higher risk of heart disease

We quickly develop abdominal obesity and that leads to the condition known as metabolic syndrome, whereby your triglycerides and small, dense LDL, the worst part of bad cholesterol, goes up, while HDL2B, the best part of your good cholesterol, goes down.

Sure genetics is one of the main reason why we get heart diseases, but environmental factors, namely food, smoking/alcohol habits and physical activity, contributes in a big way. The key is to do the right exercise. One has to do an exercise which not only increases the heart rate but also maintains it at that level for at least 45 mins to an hour. Most of the people know that they are not doing enough cardio but they keep procrastinating as they think that if nothing is broke, why fix it. This is the prime reason why it has become a silent killer. Atherosclerosis, or accumulation of plaque in arteries, can happen so silently that in lot of cases, its not even visible through a regular ECG exam. Usually, when you actually get some kind of chest pain thats when you find out and by that time lot of damage has already been done.

Dr. Enas says:
Early testing, aggressive treatment, and diligent management of risk factors through lifestyle alterations is imperative among Indians to reduce the devastating economic, emotional, and social consequences to the individual and society that premature, severe, malignant heart disease currently poses to Indians everywhere.

Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger. So if you get heart disease, don't blame your parents and grandparents. Do something.

You can find the introduction about Dr. Enas here and read the first chapter of his new book "How to beat the heart disease epidemic among south asians - A prevention and management guide for Asian Indians and their Doctors".


samir said...

Thanks for the excellent summary. Might as well just give up, roll over and play dead, no?

Gaurav said...

No, the idea is to actually do something. The environment is still something you can control. So, if you do not run, you will be running towards your D-Day.

Mihir said...

It was eye opener to learn that the regular BMI & obesity markers are much lower for Indians.

Dr.Swati said...

diet and exercise..... that is in our contral ur diet and do regular exercise.........