Heart emergencies can happen anytime; Know how to be aware
Heart problems once considered a disease of the elderly population are now becoming increasingly common among the young Indians. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is a leading cause of death and disability in India, accounting for 28% of all deaths. However, Indians as a race is predisposed to heart diseases 5-10 years earlier as compared to the other ethnicity globally. About 52% of all CVD-related death in India occurs below 50 years of age and 25% of acute myocardial infarction (damage to heart tissue) occurs below 40 years of age.
“Though heart attacks are common in India, public awareness on recognising warning symptoms remains suboptimal. Data suggests >50% of patients with heart attack reach the hospital late in India, sometimes as long as 400 minutes as against the established standard of 30 minutes. Beyond 180 minutes, the heart muscles can be damaged permanently due to lack of adequate blood supply” elaborated Dr. Ranjan Shetty, HOD & Consultant - Interventional Cardiology, Manipal Hospitals.
The story of Ajith Anirudhan, a 51-old fitness trainer, certified CPR trainer and life coach by profession is perhaps one of the best living examples of how self-awareness about heart emergencies helped him save his own life. A known case of diabetes, despite following a healthy lifestyle including regular exercising and dieting, he suffered a fatal heart attack post-dinner one evening. With his family being away on that particular day, he was quick to seek immediate help to reach the nearest hospital.
Elaborating on this, Ajith said “My initial symptoms included indigestion and loose motion, food poisoning. When I tried to relieve myself by vomiting, nothing happened. Sometime later, I could sense a tingling sensation at my fingertips and hands, and as if my ribcage is shrinking. This alarmed me and I wasted no time in seeking medical care.”
After initial evaluation at a nearby hospital, Ajith was shifted to Manipal Hospitals, Old Airport Road for further management. He underwent an emergency angioplasty within half an hour of reaching the hospital which saved his life from the impending danger. Elaborating on the case, Dr. Ranjan Shetty said, “The patient had >90% of the block in one of the major arteries supplying the heart and we had to carry out an immediate angiography and stenting to optimize his blood flow to the heart. Since the patient reached out to us in time, the damage to the heart tissues was minimal and he was discharged within 2 days of the procedure.”
Elaborating on the role of patients in identifying early signs of heart attacks, Dr. Ranjan Shetty said “In medical fraternity, we use the term door-to-balloon time to describe the time-lapse between the patient's arrival in the hospital and initiation of angiography. Door-to-balloon time should be ideally <90 mins to reduce the risk of death and complications. However, to enable a faster process, a patient should reach the hospital within 20-30 minutes of symptoms onset. It is only possible when patients can identify warning symptoms and rush to a hospital with Cath Lab, where emergency procedures can be carried out, without wasting valuable time.”
After complete recovery, Ajith is committed to encouraging common people to take CPR training. He truly believes that knowledge is power. The presence of mind and proper CPR technique can always help to save a life, even with no medical background. In his words “Heart emergencies can happen at any time, but being aware is what gives you a chance to live. Recognizing the warning signs given by the body and taking immediate necessary action is half the battle won. It is also equally important to reach out to the right people in seeking immediate medical attention.”