Medicines to prevent is good, but changing your lifestyle is better

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one cause of death on earth. It kills twice as many people as the second-largest killer, cancer. Millions of people die each year from heart attacks and sudden cardiac death. This year has seen the sudden and unexpected end of many celebrities due to what is believed to be sudden cardiac death (SCD). From journalist in good health to young muscular film actor, it spares no one, alas! It’s also quite common – every two minutes someone in the United States can die from SCD.

The tremendous advances in modern medicine, including drugs, lifesaving technology, and catheters to reach the deep chambers of the heart and stents, have saved lives in most acute cardiovascular conditions. Unfortunately, these medical breakthroughs have not translated into better care or reduced mortality and morbidity in chronic cardiovascular disease. Hypertension, diabetes and coronary heart disease are on the rise. It is believed that Indians are genetically predisposed due to the smaller radius of the coronary arteries. Thus, they are likely to have their arteries blocked with less fat deposited than their Western counterparts. Stress, lack of exercise, improper diet add to this environment to create a high risk of CVD. Others have something called SCD, where the heart goes abnormally fast or stops. People die before an ambulance can even pick you up, or you can call the person in the next room or any other emergency service.

Yoga is a safe, cost-effective, non-pharmacological intervention that may improve CVD risk. Contrary to what is commonly known, yoga is not just “asanas” or physical postures. It is a cumulative lifestyle that includes physical postures, mindfulness and meditation mental exercises, breathing techniques, and proper nutrition. This very concept of a completely new way of life is somewhat new to the Western population and many Indians who continue to misinterpret yoga as a set of physical exercises. The “yogic lifestyle,” as it is called, ensures a healthy life and a robust cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular risk factors are reduced. There may be a decrease in the number of drugs used to control high blood pressure. Diabetes is better managed. Weight loss can be observed in the obese population. Reducing obesity is also beneficial in the treatment of snoring and other sleep-related disorders.

Aberrant psychological states, including anxiety, depression, and chronic stress, increase CVD and potentiate death in heart attack patients. While depression can be managed with medication, unfortunately there are no foolproof medications. It is essential to understand that these drugs are partially effective but have side effects. They make people drowsy or have hangovers, which can be dangerous. Some are known to potentiate suicide in children and adolescents who take them. Yoga can be a response to this by regulating human behavior to decrease cardiovascular and stroke risks and improve stress, which plays a vital role in the etiology of these diseases.



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The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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