Lack of awareness hinders timely detection of heart failure, leading to treatment costs shooting up and the risk of death increasing.’
TheTimes of India’s Beat Heart Failure initiative in partnership with Novartis is a programme that aims to educate people about the disease and its common symptoms so that they can take timely action.
The idea is to also urge our policymakers to advise on better NCD diagnostics at the ground level and effective data collection to tackle such diseases in a proactive manner.
As a startto the 3rd chapter of Beat Heart Failure, TOI reached out to policymakers and the best medical minds of Assam to de-mystify the disease.
The campaign’s Assam edition saw the participation of state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, cardiology professor at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital Pranab Jyoti Bhattacharyya, cardiologist at Apollo Hospitals, Guwahati, Rituparna Baruah, chief interventional cardiologist at Hayat Super Speciality Hospital Chinmoy Mazumdar, state director of medical education Anup Kumar Barman and programme officer of non-communicable diseases at the National Health Mission Rahul Sarma.
“Assam has a number of programmes to address heart failure, including correcting coronary heart disease among children. The state spends 6% of its GDP on health, and provides free treatment to patients through mechanisms like Atal Amrit Abhiyan, an insurance scheme for people who are not covered under PM-JAY,” said health minister Sarma. “We are studying the heart failure registry of Kerala. If we find it feasible for use here, we will emulate it. Early detection is key to treating heart failure.”
The misconceptions around heart failure are many, said Barman, adding that not only was heart failure prevalent, it was one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the world.
Bhattacharyya said heart failure could be caused by heart disease as well as other diseases.
“Anaemia is a very big cause of heart failure. Other risk factors include diabetes, hypertension, smoking, unhealthy lifestyle and untimely eating habits,” he explained, while stressing on the need for early detection of the disease to cut down on treatment cost. One of the ways in which heart failure can be detected in a cost-effective and timely manner is through screening of the disease.
Sarma, who said he was seeing younger and younger patients getting diagnosed with heart failure, said current screening programmes — which check people for diabetes, hypertension and various types of cancer — should also look for heart failure. “With this, there needs to be a referral system so that critically ill patients can be referred to tertiary healthcare centres,” he said.
Mazumdar explained that a heart failure patient could be symptomatic and asymptomatic, making detection difficult.
“Heart failure could be incipient or of sudden onset. One way of checking people for heart failure is by making them fill a simple questionnaire. Grassroots health workers and primary physicians could be roped in for this,” Mazumdar said.
Baruah echoed the sentiment. “The symptoms of a heart attack and heart failure can overlap. In such cases, it is very important to have a questionnaire that can be accessible to patients. We can start looking for heart disease by getting patients to check for symptoms like fatigue and breathlessnes,” said the cardiologist.