On heart health

HEART MATTERS

Heart attack need not always express itself as a pain in the heart. Little changes you notice maybe more than what they seem to be, warns Dr Anand Philip

Men and women have different symptoms for heart attacks. While both men and women report chest pain as the commonest symptom of a heart attack, women and the elderly are more likely to have breathlessness, nausea, prolonged heartburn, tiredness, back pain and jaw pain as symptoms of a heart attack. Obviously not every heartburn in women is a heart attack, but if you already have a heart condition or are at risk, keep it in mind.

BMI hardly matters

Finding your BMI is all the rage, from coin operated machines at supermarkets to your gym trainer. Everybody wants you to know your BMI. However, in South Asians, studies show that a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is much more predictive of your heart disease and diabetes risk.

 Annual check-up no good

Blindly doing an ECG every year, or doing a “master health check” is not the best strategy for either your health or your wallet. Studies from around the world have repeatedly shown that for most people, best outcomes are when the tests you do are decided in conjunction with medical opinion. This is a lesson for doctors as much as it is for patients, as both might be guilty of being unnecessarily cautious. In general, talk to your family doctor before doing your annual or bi-annual checkup. It’s you who should be treated, not your blood reports.

 Snoring not always harmless

Most of us find snoring funny or irritating depending on the circumstance. But you should know that some people who snore also have something called obstructive sleep apnoea. OSA is a condition that leads to the breathing stopping for brief periods during sleep. This is associated with a significantly higher risk of having a heart attack. If you are known to snore and feel lethargic in the morning and have noticed your energy levels dipping, talk to your doctor about OSA.

 Taking stairs matters

Don’t be scared by the lofty fitness goals set by your gym instructor or even your doctor. Every bit of extra exercise you do, like taking the stairs, parking a bit far from the office and walking to the grocer's shop add up in the long run. It might not be as effective as the prescribed 1.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise per week, but it’s definitely protecting your heart in the long run. Start small. The important thing is that you start today, for your future.

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