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Times of India
21 June 2010
Chennai, India

In India, the term ‘young at heart’ could be just figurative. An Indian’s heart ages much faster than a Westerner’s, a study by Apollo Hospitals has found.

The results – compiled from cases the hospitals group has been treating across the country – would be used as the baseline for a larger study the group is planning to undertake in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), group chairman Dr Prathap C Reddy said.

"We have found that some heart disorders including blood vessel blocks found in a 35–year–old Indian are similar to those found in an average 60–year–old in the US. Indians are not only predisposed to heart diseases, but the progression of the disease is also faster in Indians.

Considering that the incidence of heart disease in Indians is itself four times more than their Caucasian counterparts, this is disturbing," Dr Reddy said.

Moreover, diagnosis of heart diseases happens late in India. Analysing data from more than 10,000 people who underwent CT scans at the group’s hospitals across the country, he said that many Indians in the age group of 35–60 years, who assume themselves to be healthy, may have cardiac problems. "Today, we know that nearly 10% of Indians develop heart diseases without having any risk factors like high blood pressure or diabetes. Scans have revealed a heart disease acting as precursor to diabetes and hypertension in these people. Since most heart diseases show no symptoms, young patients come to us only after the damage is done," he said.
‘Indian Hearts Age Much Fast Than Western Ones’
Senior cardiologists say the incidence of heart diseases is not confined to cities. "We are increasingly seeing rural people with heart diseases because their diabetes and hypertension remains undiagnosed for a long time," says Dr S Thanikachalam, head of cardiology, Sri Ramachandra University quoting from a cohort study which screened over 6,000 people.

"If you add lifestyle changes including obesity, smoking and lack of exercise, the risk goes up several times," he said. Late diagnosis is blamed also on the practice of India blindly following the Western standards for risk factors like blood sugar and hypertension. To correct this, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is about to take up a study to fix new indigenous thresholds for risk factors.

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