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Health: Cardiologist shares tips for a healthy heart for Mumbaikars

Updated on: 08 November,2016 08:58 AM IST  | 
Jane Borges |

Ahead of launching a book on cardiac care, the man a former PM trusted his heart with, says the daily commute does the Mumbaikar in

Health: Cardiologist shares tips for a healthy heart for Mumbaikars

The daily commute in Mumbai is a top contributor to stress

The daily commute in Mumbai is a top contributor to stress
The daily commute in Mumbai is a top contributor to stress

In the prologue of his new book, well-known cardiologist Dr Aashish Contractor takes us straight to a marathon track. The year is 2012. Runner Dhananjay Yellurkar has just reached the finish line at CST station, completing a 42.2 km-run in 5 hours 36 minutes. Soon after, cameramen surround him to capture his victory.

At the outset, there appears to be nothing unusual about his feat. It's only when Yellurkar removes his sweat-drenched T-shirt that people realise why the marathoner is at the centre of all the adulation. A long vertical scar runs across his chest. The scar, Dr Contractor writes, is a remnant of a bypass surgery that he had performed on Yellurkar some time back. In achieving the marathon glory, Dr Contractor's “warrior” patient had managed to stare his heart disease in its face.

The Heart Truth: Everything You Wanted to Know About Prevention, Treatment and Reversal of Heart Disease (Westland India), which releases later this week, draws from Dr Contractor's 18-year experience treating and rehabilitating thousands of such cardiac patients. From simplifying the purpose of the organ to learning how to adopt healthy heart habits, Dr Contractor, who heads the department of rehabilitation and sports medicine at the Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai, delves into a wide range of issues in the book. “Heart disease is the number one cause of death in our country. But, the good news is that it is preventable to a large extent. The more the awareness, the higher the chances of prevention,” says Dr Contractor on why he decided to pen this book. “Also, because of the Internet — while there is a lot of information about heart ailments out there today, there is a lot of misinformation too,” he adds.

Though the heart is an exceedingly important organ of the body, it is also the simplest in function, says Dr Contractor, who also holds the distinction of being part of the Asian Heart team that treated former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh after his redo bypass surgery in January 2009. “It essentially acts as a muscular pump, receiving blood and pumping it out. So, in principle, it appears to be far less complicated than the brain, kidney or liver,” he explains. Yet, if your heart skips a beat, the consequences can often be fatal. Let's takes it a tad more seriously, says Dr Contractor.

Dr Aashish Contractor
Dr Aashish Contractor

We spoke to him to get to the heart of the matter.

How do you know that a pain is cardiac?
Any discomfort that occurs anywhere between navel and nose, and typically increases on exertion and decreases on rest, is quite likely to be heart-related. Now, that does not mean that other kinds of pains cannot have the same symptoms. But my suggestion is not to avoid it. When in doubt, get it checked.

When it comes to heart conditions, are men and women on the same plane?
The main difference is two-fold. One is in the mode of manifestation. In men, it is more common to have chest pain or discomfort as a presenting symptom, while women usually don't experience the typical symptoms of angina. Shortness of breath with exertion is often the only symptom. The second major difference is that women tend to be misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed, and heart disease is not easily picked up. But, the truth is that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women all over the world, and in India too.

It's commonly assumed that sexual activity puts an added strain on the heart. How far is this true?
No, that's not really true. Strain in itself has a very negative connotation, so I would prefer using the word 'demand'. Yes, sexual activity puts a demand on your heart. But, that could be true for any kind of physical activity. And, in reality, the amount of effort required for sexual activity is similar to that required to climb two flights of stairs, or walking at a pace of 4–5 km/hour. When we put it that way, the demand is really negligible.

Did you know?
There's a heart condition called the Broken Heart Syndrome. This syndrome is very different from a heart attack and has nothing to do with its metaphorical meaning. It is a temporary condition brought on by a very stressful situation, like death, during which normal pumping of the heart is affected. The common symptom is chest pain, but the pain reverses on its own.

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