'Heart attack is an epidemic today'

Updated: 15 October, 2020 08:43 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Top cardiologist talks about how dealing with heart attack in COVID times is creating unique challenges

Dr Dev B Pahlajani suggested big housing societies to have health leaders trained in CPR. Representation pic
Dr Dev B Pahlajani suggested big housing societies to have health leaders trained in CPR. Representation pic

A Webinar hosted on Tuesday, October 13, by public trust V-Can, which usually tackles civic issues, focused on health this time. Trust chief Indrani Malkani said this was the first in their just-launched health and well-being series. The focus was: 'heart attack, the hidden epidemic -- how do we handle them.' Malkani said there was an emphasis on how one should handle a heart attack during COVID-19 times.

Burning topic

The expert guest for the talk, Dr Dev B Pahlajani, an interventional cardiologist and head of cardiology at Breach Candy Hospital, called the focus on heart attack "a burning topic because it is the leading cause of deaths worldwide. In the city or even globally, deaths from heart attack are four times that of deaths from cancer. Though we talk about the pandemic, heart attack is and has been a worldwide epidemic," said the top doc.

Dr Dev B Pahlajani, an interventional cardiologist and head of cardiology at Breach Candy Hospital, at the webinar
Dr Dev B Pahlajani, an interventional cardiologist and head of cardiology at Breach Candy Hospital, at the webinar

Dr Pahlajani explained, "In COVID-19 times so many patients do not know whether they are getting a heart attack or is it anxiety, depression… These symptoms are occurring because people are immobile in their homes. Even doctors today are not visiting homes, and dispensaries are only partially open. It is not only patients but even doctors who are facing the same issue of how to get the right medical help now". He acknowledged that people are facing unique challenges during the pandemic.

Golden hours

Speaking about how and why people get heart attacks, he said, "A heart attack occurs because of the blockage of the arteries. The person's life is in immediate danger. It does not damage the heart muscle instantaneously though. We usually have six hours before the heart muscle gets totally damaged. Our aim should be to wheel this person to the hospital within these golden hours. I call it 'the death was so near and yet so far' syndrome, which can be achieved by timely treatment." The doctor added, "We need to mobilise services to ensure that treatment is received, and put all our energies into seeing this works. In COVID-19 times, there is not much traffic.?

Talking about the graph of how increased prosperity has brought with it a host of problems, like weight gain and hypertension, the doctor said, "By 2025, India is going to become the world capital of diabetes, which is one of the most important causes of a heart attack." Talking tough on the puff, Dr Pahlajani said, "Smoking is a very dangerous habit; it is a double edged sword that is very sharp. As a smoker, you may save yourself from heart attacks but the other side is still sharp, it will kill you by cancer. Tobacco should be banned worldwide."

Saving lives

The cardiologist warned people against dismissing chest pain as gas or muscular problems. "Do not become neurotic, but seek advice at once," he said. You can always go to the hospital even in these times. Patients are segregated and ambulances are available. If it is a heart attack, we are always ready to begin treatment," he added. The doctor extolled the virtues of exercise even during the lockdown. "Cycle, take a walk in the housing society compound," he said, finishing with, "Big housing societies must have health leaders who are trained in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). They should also invest in installing an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) within the premises, both potential life savers."

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First Published: 15 October, 2020 06:30 IST

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