A heart to Heart Talk With Dr. Devi Shetty and Dr. Sanjay Mehrotra

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Dr. Devi Shetty, chairman of NH healthcare, along with Dr. Sanjay Mehrotra, a senior cardiologist at NH, participated in an online webinar session recently. They discussed and answered important cardiac and medical related queries submitted by patients from around the globe.

The 42 minute video-session addressed topics of major heart diseases; affecting every age group, starting from newborn infants to patients over the 90 year old age mark. They also discussed advanced surgical procedures and options, post-surgical maintenance, as well as the overall well-being of the heart. Their main aim was to help patients understand and treat these heart ailments, analyze genetic factors, medical treatments and lifestyle precautions- in order to keep their heart healthy and live better.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), heart diseases have emerged to be the number one cause of death in Asia, predominantly in India and Bangladesh, with an average of 25% cases occurring among the 25-60 year age group. Dr. Devi Shetty mentioned that Indian heart patients are three times more vulnerable to cardiac ailments as compared to other nationals (Europeans). This puts them at a higher risk of experiencing heart attacks at a tender age, alongside poor health conditions. This is due to a number of factors such as unhealthy lifestyles, unbalanced diets, lack of exercise and prolonged stress.

Two of the main topics discussed were Atrial Septal defect (ASD) and Arrhythmia. Let’s take a look at the first disease.

ASD is a congenital heart defect affecting blood flow between the atria (upper chambers) of the heart, that are separated by a dividing wall called inter atrial septum. If this septum is defective, mostly due to the presence of a hole, blood with low levels of oxygen is supplied to the brain, organs and tissues of the body. Dr. Shetty assures that there is a non-surgical treatment for this type of a heart disease. He says the hole can be closed by inserting a small device, using a catheter procedure, which is safe and quick. It also allows the patient to recover faster. However, for infants with this condition, it is advisable to wait until they reach an age of 3-4 years before they start treatment, preferably with an expert pediatric cardiologist.

Arrhythmia, on the other hand, is caused due to rapid or irregular heartbeats. This happens when electric waves between the two ends of the heart are not transmitted through the dedicated pathway, but through alternate channels. Here’s where an electrophysiologist comes into play. These medical experts analyze and identify the problem areas around the heart, and perform Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA). This unique procedure allows high-frequency radio waves to use thermal heat to burn and eliminate the precise location of the heart- from which the arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, originates. This non-surgical procedure is probably the only cardiac treatment that promises a patient complete cure.

Another major heart concern is heart blockages, which can best be treated with coronary angioplasty procedures, unless the blocks are too big and located in several spots. In such a case, surgery would be the better option.

Infants and small children could suffer from Cyanosis, a condition that occurs due to the lack of oxygen that makes babies turn blue while crying, especially around the mouth and face.  In such cases, immediate surgery is highly recommended to prevent worst case scenarios. Studies have shown that around 1 out of 140 babies are born with heart conditions and there is no scientific conclusion as to why this happens. However, some of the reasons could be factors such as the child’s mother being of relatively older age or the child’s mother having rubella, also known as German measles. The chances of the baby being born with heart disease are high in such cases. Medical hospitals offer fetus echo cardiogram, in order to diagnose the prevalence of such cases, while the baby is still in the mother’s womb.

Although some cardiac conditions depend largely on genetic factors, it is not the case every time. This gives doctors the hope to modify and alter the criticality regardless of certain direct DNA factors. It’s important to know that heart diseases which require Stent interventions should not be ignored, but instead, be treated immediately. The same applies for patients with Ventricular Septal Defects (VST) which is one of the most common congenital heart defects.

Having discussed the chunk of heart related issues, the discussion veered towards other concerns. The doctor’s went on to explain effective ways to manage and avoid high Blood Pressure (BP), especially among younger patients. Dr. Mehruthra and Dr. Shetty believe that medicines should be the last resort to treat any medical condition, especially if patients are below 40 years of age. According to them, with a right diet (mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats), regular exercise, changes in lifestyle, practicing meditation/yoga, and avoiding shelved foods containing high amounts of preservatives, trans-fatty acids and MSGs, one can easily maintain normal blood pressure levels (120/80) and live a healthy life.

A balanced diet includes the following items, as suggested by Dr. Shetty:

  • Cornflakes and two bananas for breakfast
  • Grilled lean protein with fresh salad for lunch
  • Tea/coffee with skimmed milk
  • Wheat chapatis and lentil soup/channa/ sprouts for dinner

On a lighter note, Dr. Shetty advices patients to avoid curry and rice and even called the latter ‘bad news’.

But the good news is that coronary heart diseases tend to become less aggressive once a patient crosses the 60 year mark. Until then, it’s imperative that patients experiencing even the mildest symptoms undergo an ECHO cardiogram or a high speed CT scan that can instantly predict the chances of a heart attack or silent Ischemia in the near future.

The famous saying  ‘prevention is better than cure’ aptly relates to why Dr. Shetty suggests that people below 40 years should undergo a preventive or an executive health check-up, at least once in two years. This can help them obtain early diagnosis, start proactive treatments and achieve optimal health benefits in the long run.

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