Mind Your Heart

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR 

Question: Heart disease seems to run in my family. Please let me know the basics and also what I can do to ‘prevent’ the disease, if possible.

S K, Bengaluru

Answer: A host of risk factors plays a major role in the development of heart disease. For example: cigarette smoking, physical inactivity, stress, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, triglycerides, homocysteine, not to speak of diabetes etc., The risk factors are two-fold: controllable, and not controllable.

Also, if you have any two of any of the following risk factors — high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and cigarette smoking — the chance that you may have a heart attack is four times greater than if you have none. However, if you have all the three major controllable risk factors — high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking — the chance is eight times greater.

It is quite possible to ‘control’ the three major risk factors, as also other risks — viz., diabetes, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, type ‘A’ personality — aggression, certain medical conditions and medications. But, there are also risks you cannot control: male susceptibility, heredity, and increased age. So, if you have increased risk of heart disease, you should try to minimise the risk factors.

As for folks with a genetic-related phenomenon, or a strong family history of premature coronary disease, they’d better take all steps possible. For one primal reason — they are definitely at high risk. Yes, you will also have to promptly undertake the following measures — quit smoking, avoid alcohol, restrict salt usage, limit calorie intake, exercise regularly, reduce your emotional stress levels through meditation and/or yoga, get tested for hypertension, elevated fat etc.,

It’s a complex process, doubtless. All the same, it is extremely important for each of us to get a complete lipid profile, liver and kidney function tests etc., and look at cholesterol and homocysteine levels, as also other factors. You should try to have a total cholesterol level of 180, or less. It is also imperative that you lower your blood pressure — the higher your blood pressure, the greater is your risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.

High blood pressure tends to run in families. If any of your family members, or close relatives, have had high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke, at an early age, you should have your blood pressure and other factors monitored regularly and professionally treated by a specialist — a cardiologist.

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.

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