Heart attacks are not only striking people at a younger age but are catching them completely unawares. Experts say that 30% of people die when they suffer their first heart attacks because they don’t know what’s happening to them and do not know what to do. If that’s not bad enough, the young are increasingly reporting asymptomatic heart attacks, where the attack is silent and not accompanied by the familiar chest pain.
“If you are over 20 years and are a smoker, overweight (with a tendency to put on fat on your stomach), have a family history of premature heart disease, suffer from insulin resistance (diabetes), high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, or are not very active, you should go in for a preventive heart check-up,” said Dr Pratap C Reddy, chairman, Apollo Group of Hospitals.
Indians are nowadays getting heart attacks 15-20 years before Caucasians, Reddy added.
It’s a simple enough test that takes less than five minutes to predict whether you have a lifetime risk of developing heart disease.
The carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT) test uses ultrasound to measure the thickness of the carotid arteries in your neck to detect whether plaques (fatty deposits in the inside walls of the arteries) have lead to its thickening.
“Routine screening tests such as the treadmill test detect heart diseases after the arteries have started getting choked with plaque. The carotid ultrasound helps identify subclinical disease and predict your future heart attack and stroke risk, independent of risk factors,” says Dr Ravi Kasliwal, chairman, clinical and preventive cardiology, Medanta-the Medicity. The test costs between R500 and R1,000.
The other tried-and-tested predictor is the Framingham Heart Risk Score , which can be done online to predict your risk over the next decade using your cholesterol, good “HDL” cholesterol and blood pressure readings. Detecting the disease in time is
the real challenge because once detected, controlling it through lifestyle changes, medicines and interventions is possible.