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Do You Know Your ABC of Healthcare

Anil Saigal

On Sunday June 1, 2003, United India Association in cooperation with IITSINE, IAGB and Golden Club, organized a Healthcare Seminar dealing with the A (A1C sugar) B (Blood pressure) C (Cholesterol) of health care at the Burlington Marriott. It was a very informative session for the 80 or so brave people who decided to attend the event in spite of the heavy rains. Puran Dang and Shiv Kapuria coordinated the event.

Dr. Om Ganda, talked about "Diabetes and Heart Disease: Confronting the Increased Risk in Indians." Dr. Ganda is a Senior Physician and Director of the Lipid Clinic at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and Associate Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. According to Dr. Ganda, in 1995, out of the 135 million people worldwide who had diabetes, approximately 20 million of them were Indians. That number is expected to grow to about 58 million Indians out of 300 million by 2025. As a nation, a much higher percentage of people in general are classified as overweight and obese, one of the primary factors leading to diabetes.

Family history, obesity (especially central obesity), age, physical inactivity, high blood pressure, low HDL - cholesterol and/or high triglyceride, mother with baby's birth weight above 9 lbs, diabetes during pregnancy and ethnicity are some of the risk factors associated with diabetes. For example, while only 7% of the whites have diabetes, it is 14%, 15% and 19% amongst Hispanics, African Americans and American Indians, respectively.

Diabetes is prevalent in higher numbers in urban areas and advanced countries. For example, only 1-2% of the Indians living in rural India have diabetes. That number for Indian increases to 8% of those living in Chennai, 10-12% of those living in Mauritius and 12-14 of those living in Fiji. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney disease, heart disease, nerve damage leading to amputations and stroke.

Diabetes is preventable and depends on the life style. The three most important ingredients are weight control, exercise and eating the right type of food. According to Dr. Ganda, the three "Weapons of Mass Destruction" are hamburgers, french fries and soda. There are currently a number of studies in progress to revise the food pyramid with increased emphasis on grains, vegetables and fruits.

Dr. Salil Midha, discussed issues related to heart disease risks and prevention. Dr. Midha is the Director of the Cardiac Catherization Laboratory and Chief of Cardiology at the Melrose Wakefield Hospital in Melrose, MA. According to Dr. Midha, heart disease is the #1 killer in America many times more than breast cancer. About 1 in 2 deaths are due to coronary heart diseases and 30-40% of the people die before they ever reach the hospital.

The four majors categories of heart disease are angina, heart attack, heart failure and arrhythmia. In addition to the risk factors, which cause diabetes, hypertension and smoking amongst others are the additional culprits, which lead of heart diseases. As such, according to Dr. Midha, every individual should make sure that they lower the LDL ( bad cholesterol) to below 100, take a stress test, have their thyroids checked and know their C-reactive protein levels.

According to Dr. Roy John, Director, Cardiac Electrophysiology Laboratory at Lahey Clinical Medical Center in Burlington, MA, the heart should be looked as a mechanical device (pump) with plumbing (arteries) and electrical connections (signals). Taking aspirin, lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure, avoiding tobacco and exercising will minimize the risk for heart disease. However, if one does develop coronary heart disease, based on individual history, the doctor may recommend that a patient undergo either angioplasty or by-pass surgery (CABG). CABG usually has a longer recovery period but can generally result in better long-term results. Scientific advances have allowed for better angioplasty techniques, pacemaker and defibrillator technology and developments are under way to create a totally artificial heart.

The take home message from this seminar was that for a healthy life one must eat right, exercise and maintain appropriate body weight. For additional information, please check www.ndep.nih.gov.

The organizing committee is to be commended on putting together a useful and informative health session. The event was very well organized. Pfizer Corp., Medtronics, Glaxo Smithcline Pharmaceuticals and Novartis Pharmaceuticals should be thanked for sponsoring this event.

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