Heart disease is still the major killer in the Industrialized Nations. Death due to heart disease is declining in the USA in the last three decades. This benefit is attributed to better education, life style changes, development of educational, diagnostic and preventive programs. However, in recent years there is considerable increase in the morbidity and mortality due to heart disease in the developing and underdeveloped countries. South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Sri Lankans) have the highest incidence of hypertension, diabetes and Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) compared to any other ethnic group in the world.
Many risk factors contribute to the triggering of a heart attack. Unlike Cancer, risk factors for CAD are preventable. Some of the known risk factors include: family history of CAD, genetic predisposal, high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated levels of cholesterol, low levels of high density lipoproteins (HDL), high amounts of low density lipoproteins (LDL), elevated lipoprotein (Lpa), increased triglycerides, homocysteine, obesity, smoking, stress and sedentary life. A single risk factor may not be as much of a threat for developing CAD as compared to a combination of risk factors. For instance, a person who has three risk factors is eight times more likely to develop heart disease than one who has only one risk factor.
Risk factors such as high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol and diabetes do not produce any symptoms in the early stages. That is why Heart attacks and Strokes are considered silent killers. Prevention is the only cure for CAD. Early detection, treatment or effective management of these risk factors is the only sure way to prevent CAD. An annual physical examination is considered good "Preventive Medicine" once you reach middle age.
Learn to recognize the early warning symptoms of Heart Attack: 1) Uncomfortable pressure in the chest, fullness, squeezing or pain in the centre of the chest lasting more than a few minutes, 2) Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck or arms, 3) Chest discomfort with light headedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath. Fear, lack of knowledge and denial compound the problem. The thought of having a heart attack is scary. People at risk may delay getting timely help by ignoring their symptoms or rationalizing that it will some how go away. Creating awareness, encourages people to get appropriate help early.
Finally, in spite of advances in the modern medicine for the treatment of CAD, changing to a healthy life style remains the single most effective way to prevent CAD. Some of the healthy choices include, low fat high fiber diet, regular exercise, abstaining from smoking and stress free living.