Indians genetically prone to heart diseases, say experts

April 25th, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 25 (IANS) Indians are more prone to heart diseases largely due to genetic reasons, low physical activity and high intake of fat-rich foods, said eminent cardiologists Friday agreeing with a Lancet report that within two years around 60 percent of the world’s cardiac problems are expected to occur in India. The Lancet report published this week follows a prediction by the World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier that Indians less than 40 years of age would be more prone to heart attacks compared to Westerners by 2015.

Rakesh R. Sapra, consultant cardiologist (invasive) at Artemis Health Institute at Gurgaon, bordering Delhi, told IANS: “Indians are more prone to artery blockages, probably because of genetic influence. This can be seen even in the US, where Indian Americans are more affected by heart problems than others - this is not just due to habits. Indians have high cholesterol levels - due to low physical activity and a diet rich in fats, which leads to lipid abnormality, or cholesterol.”

The problem is being increasingly seen among younger people, and this was causing more concern, he said.

“Heart diseases are now being seen among people who are as young as 30 years. This shows that the burden of the disease will obviously be huge in the country,” said Sapra.

According to Vinita Arora, senior consultant at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, the reasons for Indians being afflicted with heart problems were smoking, stress, a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating habits.

“There is already an epidemic of coronary artery disease in the country. Indians are more prone to blockages in arteries. And this is increasing at a high pace,” Arora told IANS.

“I am not at all surprised with the Lancet report. But we need to do more about creating awareness among people,” she added.

Coronary artery disease is a condition in which plaque (fat, cholesterol) builds up inside the coronary arteries, which supply the heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood.

The Lancet article said: “Patients with acute coronary syndromes in India tend to be young and from low socio-economic groups.”

It said India has a higher rate of heart diseases that leads to worse prognosis than in developed countries, with younger Indians afflicted most. The authors said that between 1990 and 2020, these diseases are expected to increase by 137 percent for men and 120 percent for women in developing countries, compared with 30-60 percent in developed countries.

The authors - Denis Xavier from St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences Bangalore, India, and Salim Yusuf of McMaster University Canada, and their colleagues - did the CREATE study or what is a prospective registry study in 89 centres from 10 regions and 50 cities in India, which looked at almost 21,000 patients.

Arora said the central government needs to create awareness about heart diseases so that these could be prevented in time. “Preventing heart diseases should be high on our health agenda and on the budget,” she said.

Ashok Seth, chief cardiologist at Max Heart and Vascular Institute, said 10 percent of India’s total population is said to suffer from one or another kind of heart disease.

“We can judge the situation by seeing all around us. There would be someone close to us who has suffered from heart disease,” he said.

Speaking of the lack of awareness, Sapra said because people are not aware about the symptoms, they tend to consider it a gastric problem when they have chest pain and overlook it. By the time they reach hospital it is too late.

“A large number of people die either at home or on way to hospital. They are not at all aware of the symptoms of heart attacks.”

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