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With a healthy heart-The beat goes on

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Dr Mahantesh R Charantimath, Senior Interventional Cardiologist & Managing Director, Tathagat Hospital, Bangalore talks about cardiovascular diseases and its management

With society’s ever-increasing need for a perfect physique, we often ignore messages from our bodies about underlying health problems. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of deaths globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. India accounts for one-fifth of these deaths worldwide, with an early age of onset, rapid progression, and a high mortality rate.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is often perceived as a problem only affecting older populations. However, heart disease does not discriminate. Young adults are more at risk than most people realize—it can affect anyone, at any age.

Heart disease often appears without any symptoms initially, which means it might not be noticed. Risk factors play an important role in determining whether you are likely to develop heart disease. The most important behavioural risk factors for heart disease and stroke are usually unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and alcohol abuse, which reveals itself as high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high cholesterol, as well as being overweight and obese.

The good news is that heart disease is preventable in most people. For those recovering from a heart attack, heart failure, or any other heart condition that requires medical treatment or surgery, Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) plays a crucial part in the recovery process. Cardiac rehabilitation programmes aim to address the psychological and physiological stresses of CVD, reduce the risk of mortality, and improve cardiovascular function to help patients achieve a better quality of life.

Let me give you an example of one of my patients, Manjunath (name changed), a 49-year-old who visited me for a routine examination. After the evaluation revealed that his blood pressure was higher than expected, he agreed to an ECG and additional tests for his heart. Through surgery, doctors removed almost 100% of the blockage in a major blood vessel, restoring blood flow to his heart muscles. He was then advised to follow a virtual home-based cardiac rehabilitation programme, which allowed him to optimise his medication consumption, maintain a balanced diet and exercise regime, and provided stress-relieving tips. Within three months, he noticed that his blood pressure and heart rate had stabilised to a normal range. With a full recovery in sight, he gained complete confidence.

Despite the knowledge that Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) is effective and necessary among CVD patients, there are limitations in accessing these programmes. While India has a high rate of cardiovascular diseases, the availability of CR services is limited. Also, due to the sheer number of cases doctors have to deal with, CR has often been considered a luxury.

When compared to the rest of the world, India ranks poorly in cardiac rehabilitation. There are also many barriers to participation in CR, including poor referral rates, low socioeconomic status of patients, not following CR programmes, lack of endorsement by cardiologists etc.

To overcome these problems, effective virtual home-based cardiac rehabilitation programmes endorsed by doctors and physicians, can become a viable alternative. Technology such as telehealth and remote care can be used effectively outside traditional hospital walls.

Health care providers can monitor CR patients at home in real-time and at low cost. With the aid of mobile technology, artificial intelligence, and supportive services, healthcare applications like Numen allow patients to receive medical care from the comfort of their own homes. After surgery, heart patients can be closely monitored daily, with any urgent actions taken immediately. Such services are helping the healthcare industry transition from reactive to proactive approaches and serving as a 24/7 lifeline between patients and healthcare providers.

Healthcare apps like Numen Health can ensure timely intervention for those who require immediate care while providing safe alternatives to those who do not require hospital care. In most instances, hospitals are nearly at capacity during regular times, and technology can relieve this pressure considerably. Using advanced telehealth solutions, physicians can expand their reach by examining and diagnosing more patients remotely within a shorter time span and decreasing the number of patients entering hospitals and medical facilities.

With the current health scenario restricting access to hospitals, an effective home-based cardiac rehabilitation enables technology to join hands with a team-oriented approach. This can revolutionise healthcare and facilitate the delivery of the latest medical care synchronously, thus providing the best of both worlds.

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