Since the late 1990s, India has had the dubious distinction of being the coronary artery disease (CAD) capital of the world. CAD is more prevalent among Indians than any other ethnic group in the world, and occurs earlier here than anywhere else. It results in more deaths worldwide than any other disease, and the prevalence and severity of the disease has shown no signs of letting up.
The 101 on CAD is simple�it occurs when the vessels that supply blood to the heart get damaged; this restricts the flow of blood to the heart. This, in turn, can lead to chest pain (angina) and shortness of breath, while a complete blockage can result in a myocardial infarction (heart attack). But here�s the twist: The biggest factors for this CAD epidemic are not genetic or external sources or lack of medical intervention�it is the choices we make.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80% of the CAD cases across the world are the result of lifestyle choices�these include lack of exercise, unhealthy eating habits and regular use of tobacco. This is similar to the results from a study by INTERHEART, a Canadian-led global survey of the risk factors for heart attacks conducted in 52 countries (the results were first published in September 2004). The study examined 15,152 people who had suffered a heart attack and compared them with 14,820 people of the same age and sex who did not have a prior history of heart attacks or heart disease Read More
Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, writes on public health issues and is a research scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.