These are called the communicable diseases the incidence of which was very high about 2 decades ago. But gradually the incidence of these has considerably decreased, thanks to the boon of improved technology and better living standards. However, another set of diseases, called the non communicable diseases (NCD) have slowly crept in and now has laid its trap on mankind in this industrialized society. These are the ones which occur not due to contact but due to certain modifiable and non modifiable factors. In this class is one of the most wide spread disorders, the coronary artery disease (CAD).
The non modifiable factors are age, gender, race and family history. Family history could include incidence of diabetes, blood pressure, obesity or cardio vascular disease. The risk of developing CAD increases with age greater than 45 years in men and 55 years in women. A family history of early heart disease would mean heart disease in the father or brother diagnosed before age 55 years and in the mother or sister below 65 years. So what about the modifiable risk factors? Can we by some modifications in our lifestyle help avert the dreadful disease? Yes certainly. These are our lifestyle factors –dietary habits, our environment, our social life and habits like alcohol, smoking, physical activity and sleep pattern.
Our dietary pattern and eating culture have taken a big leap from that of high fiber based cereals, pulses, vegetables and fresh fruits to refined, processed foods, high in fats and also in sodium content. Added to these, is the decreasing physical activity from that of a once more active lifestyle. These are the main causes of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Consumption of alcohol, smoking and erratic sleeping hours coupled with a highly demanding stressful life have further added to the miseries.
In this context, therefore health workers have shifted focus on prevention of such diseases and thereby increasing our lifespan rather than just treat or cure them. The answer to these problems hence lies in to reverting back to the age old lifestyle of healthy diets, more physical activity and avoidance of alcohol and smoking. For this one can get involved in some relaxation activities like yoga, meditation or going out for long walks or perhaps a break from the demanding schedule once in a while.
In non modifiable conditions, where there is a family history of any one of the above mentioned problems, even there we can play some role in averting or perhaps delaying it or at least minimizing the severity of the disease. Timely action can always go a long way in developing more complications in the long run. It is advisable to maintain a routine check of those either annually or 6 monthly in case of high risk groups. For instance, one could get his/her blood pressure check done and monitoring it at the ideal or near ideal value of 120/80 mm of Hg. A fasting blood sugar value of < 100 mgs/dl, a total cholesterol value of <200 mg, triglycerides <150 mgs, LDL (bad cholesterol) <130mg and a HDL (good cholesterol) of 45 -75 mg/dl should be the ideal target to be maintained.
So to avoid falling prey to the coronary artery diseases, the major focus in our lifestyle should be on healthy eating pattern, a healthy body weight, a desirable lipid and blood sugar profile and an acceptable blood pressure range.
A little care and effort in our day to day life can certainly help us remain healthy and disease free for a longer span in the times to come.