Haroon Reshi

Beware – Kashmir’s heart is not that safe!

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Cardiac ailments among young show upward trend; experts point to unhealthy eating habits, smoking, mental stress, and lack of exercise as key reasons

Srinagar: While Covid-19 is starring the world in the eye with deadly consequences; medical professionals say that heart ailments, including heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrests, are one of the major causes of deaths in Kashmir for the past over a decade. Lately, many of the victims have been the ‘young’ people as well.

According to the available figures, as many as 29,545 patients visited Outpatient Department (OPD) in the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura from January 1st to October 31st, this year, to treat their heart diseases. Among these, 1454 patients were admitted in Cardiology’s Inpatient Department (IPD) for surgeries and other interventions in the same period.

At the Super Speciality Hospital, Shireen Bagh Srinagar, as many as 9960 patients visited Cardiology OPD and 1509 others were admitted in the same hospital for the specialized treatment in the first 10 months (January 1st to October 31st) of this year.

Even as there is no population-based record available to show death-rate due to cardiac diseases, however, doctors say that heart ailments are on the rise in Kashmir, and many more young deaths are occurring due to heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrests now than what was the situation a decade ago.

“It is true that the heart ailments are increasing in Kashmir and we also see that even the youngsters are suffering these ailments. Earlier, heart diseases were found after the age of 50 years. A decade back, we would rarely see people suffering or dying of heart diseases at a young age. However, now it is a common phenomenon,” Dr. Nisar Ahmad Tramboo, a leading cardiologist and HoD at SKIMS told ‘Kashmir Images’.

Dr. Tramboo says that unhealthy lifestyles like having an unhealthy diet, smoking, lack of exercise, mental stress are some of the main reasons responsible for increasing heart diseases.

“The reasons for the heart ailments, heart attacks, and sudden cardiac arrests combine so many things. But mostly, our lifestyle change has caused cardiac problems among the masses. People have adopted unhealthy lifestyles. They eat unhealthy food; a large number of people smoke actively or passively, a large population is also struggling will mental stress these days. There is also atmospheric pollution around. All these things can be blamed for increasing heart diseases in Kashmir.” said Dr. Tramboo.

“People do not exercise and it causes weight gain and ultimately they get diabetes and many other ailments, all of which then lead to heart-related problems,” he added.

There is also a common perception that in far-flung areas of the Valley, people do not get proper treatment for heart-related diseases and in case of heart attacks, the sufferers do not get immediate medical help leading to deaths, which are, in fact, avoidable.

In a recent case of a journalist’s death, many blamed lack of immediate treatment for his demise. 37-year-old Mudasir Ali, a prominent journalist died of a heart attack on November 20.

He was taken to nearby Sub-District Hospital (SDH) immediately after he had complained of chest pain at his Charar-e-Sharief residence in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

His younger brother, Jehangir Ali, also a journalist, apart from the negligence of doctors, also blamed the non-availability of basic infrastructure for delay in treating Mudasir.

“Crucial time was lost initially in waking up the doctor…. A stretcher or a wheel-chair was not available there to prevent more respiratory stress on a patient who was already gasping for breath,” Jehangir revealed in one of his Facebook posts.

There is a general complaint that people suffering from heart attacks do not get prompt and proper medical help in peripheries of the Valley. Doctors worldwide suggest that most of the patients who develop heart attacks can be saved if provided with immediate treatment.

“Unfortunately, we lack proper facilities related to cardiology in far-flung areas. Sometimes patients die due to heart attacks because they do not get immediate medical help. In most of the areas, good ambulance service is not available to carry the patient for specialized treatment. The first hour after the heart attack is referred to as ‘the golden hour’ because the patients can be saved if given correct treatment in this first hour,” Dr. Imran Hafeez, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cardiology SKIMS, told ‘Kashmir Images’.

Pertinently, Dr. Hafeez is one of the three Kashmiri doctors – besides Dr. Nasir Shamas and Dr. Muzaffar Zargar– who started ‘Save Heart Initiative’ in 2017, to offer online professional services to the junior doctors in remote areas.

These doctors also started a WhatsApp group called ‘Save Heart Initiative’ and started guiding WhatsApp messages to these junior doctors in cases of emergencies.

“Today, there are more than 1500 doctors across Jammu and Kashmir linked with this initiative. Our focus is on sudden heart attack cases. We have been offering our guidance through WhatsApp messages. When a doctor from a distinct place contacts us to seek specialized guidance, we, first of all, ask for the patient’s ECG results. Having looked at the ECG report, we advise the doctor accordingly,” said Dr. Hafeez.

Clearly, there is much to do to prevent heart ailments in this part of the world. Apart from creating a robust system and infrastructure across Jammu and Kashmir on a priority basis, enhanced public awareness campaigns to educate the community and give an overview of issues concerning heart ailments is an immediate thing to start.

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