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Dr Devi Shetty, a reknown heart surgeon speaks on heart attacks...

Dr Devi Prasad Shetty is a reknown cardiac surgeon and philanthropist. After he trained in cardiac surgery in UK, he returned to India to work and subsequently started the Manipal Heart Foundation in Bangalore. In 2001, he founded Narayana Hrudayalaya, one of the largest paediatric heart hospitals in the world. He has performed over 15,000 heart operations.

This chat with Dr.Devi Shetty was arranged by WIPRO for its employees. The transcript of the chat, given below, is useful for everyone.

Q: What are the basic rules to care for one's heart?

  1. Diet - Less carbohydrate, more of protein, less oil.
  2. Exercise - Walk half an hour five days a week; avoid lifts and avoid sitting for long hours.
  3. Quit smoking.
  4. Control your weight.
  5. Control your blood pressure and blood sugar level.

Q: Is eating non-veg. food (fish) good for the heart?

Ans: No

Q: It's a shock to hear that some apparently healthy person suffered a heart attack. How can this happen?

Ans: This is called a silent attack; that is why we recommend everyone past the age of 30 should undergo routine health checkups.

Q: Is heart disease hereditary?

Ans: Yes

Q: What are the ways in which the heart is stressed?
What practices do you suggest to de-stress?

Ans: Change your attitude towards life. Do not look for perfection in everything in life.

Q: Is walking better than jogging, or is more intensive exercise necessary to keep a healthy heart?

Ans: Walking is better than jogging because jogging can lead to early fatigue and injury to the joints.

Q: You have done so much for the poor and needy. What has inspired you to do so?

Ans: Mother Theresa, who was my patient.

Q: Can people with low blood pressure suffer heart disease?

Ans: Extremely rare.

Q: Does cholesterol accumulate right from an early age, or do you have to worry about it only after you are above 30 years of age?

Ans: Cholesterol accumulates from childhood.

Q: How do irregular eating habits affect the heart?

Ans: You tend to eat junk food when you have irregular eating habits, and your body's enzyme release for digestion gets confused.

Q: How can I control my cholesterol level without using medicines?

Ans: Control your diet, walk, and eat walnuts!

Qn: Which is the best and worst food for the heart?

Ans: Fruits and vegetables are the best, and the worst is oil.

Qn: Which oil is better - groundnut, sunflower, olive?

Ans: All oils are bad; use as little as possible.

Q: Which routine check-up should one take? Is there any specific test?

Ans: Do a routine blood test to ensure sugar, cholesterol is ok. Also check blood pressure. Consider a Treadmill Test and an Echo.

Q: What First Aid steps to do if someone suffers a heart attack?

Ans: Help the person into a sleeping position, place an aspirin tablet under the tongue with a sorbitrate tablet if available, and rush him to a coronary care unit since the maximum casualty takes place within the first hour.

Q: How do you differentiate between pain caused by a heart attack and that due to gastric trouble?

Ans: Extremely difficult without doing an ECG.

Q: What is the main cause of a steep increase in heart problems amongst youngsters? I see people of about 30-40 yrs of age having heart attacks and serious heart problems.

Ans: Increased awareness detects more incidents. Also, sedentary lifestyles, smoking, junk food and lack of exercise in a region(Asia) where people are genetically three times more vulnerable for heart attacks than Europeans and Americans.

Q: Is it possible for a person to have BP outside the normal range of 120/80 and yet be perfectly healthy?

Ans: Yes.

Q: Is it true that marriages within close relatives can lead to heart problems for the children?

Ans : Yes, co-sanguinity leads to higher congenital abnormalities including that of the heart.

Q: Many of us have an irregular daily routine and many a time we have to stay late nights at the office. Does this affect our heart? What precautions would you recommend?

Ans : When you are young, nature protects you against all these irregularities. But, as you grow older, your body cannot take it - respect the biological clock.

Q: Will taking anti-hypertensive drugs cause some other complications (short / long term)?
Ans : Yes, most drugs have some side effects. However, modern anti-hypertensive drugs are extremely safe.

Q: Will consuming more coffee/tea lead to heart attacks?

Ans : No.

Q: Are asthma patients more prone to heart disease?

Ans : No.

Q: How would you define junk food?

Ans : Fried food like KFC, McDonalds, samosas, and even masala dosas.

Q: You mentioned that Indians are three times more vulnerable to heart disease. Why is this, as Europeans and Americans also eat a lot of junk food?

Ans: Every race is vulnerable to some disease and unfortunately, Indians are vulnerable for the most expensive disease.

Q: Does consuming bananas help reduce hypertension?

Ans : No.

Q: Can a person help himself during a heart attack (Because we see a lot of forwarded emails on this)?

Ans : Yes. Lie down comfortably and put an aspirin tablet under the tongue. Ask someone to take you to the nearest coronary care unit immediately. Don't call the ambulance since most of the time the ambulance take ages to arrive.

Q: Can low white blood cells and low hemoglobin count lead to heart problems?

Ans : No. But it is ideal to have normal hemoglobin level to increase your exercise capacity.

Q: Often, due to busy lifestyles, we are not able to exercise. Can walking while doing daily chores at home or climbing the stairs in the house work as a substitute for exercise?

Ans : Certainly. Avoid sitting continuously for more than half an hour. Even the act of getting out of your chair and going to another chair to sit helps a lot.

Q: Is there a link between heart problems and blood sugar?

Ans: Yes. A strong relationship since diabetics are more vulnerable to heart attacks than non-diabetics.

Q: What are the things one needs to take care of after a heart operation?

Ans : Diet, exercise, take medicines on time, control cholesterol, BP, weight.

Q: Are people working on night shifts more vulnerable to heart disease when compared to day shift workers?

Ans : No.

Q: What are the modern anti-hypertensive drugs?

Ans : There are hundreds of drugs; your doctor will choose the right combination for you. But, if possible, avoid drugs and go for natural ways of controlling blood pressure - walking, dieting to reduce weight, and changing your attitude towards life.

Q: Why is the rate of heart attacks higher in men than in women?

Ans : Nature protects women till the age of 45. (but, a recent census showed that the increase in the percentage of women with heart disease is higher than for men).

Q: How can one keep the heart in a good condition?
Ans : Eat a healthy diet, avoid junk food, exercise everyday, do not smoke, watch your weight, and go for regular health check-ups if you are past the age of 30 (at least once a year).

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