India is expected to account for 60 percent of the world’s total heart disease cases by 2010.
Heart disease, the leading cause of death globally, kills about 7.1 million people each year. The two major reasons for developing heart diseases are fatty deposits that harden and block the arteries and high blood pressure, which damages the blood vessels.
Indian and Canadian researchers studied 21,000 heart attack patients across 89 centres in 50 cities for four years. The participants were less likely to go for surgery to clear clogged arteries than people in other countries because about three-quarters of the patients in India pay for their own treatments.
It was found that the time taken to reach the hospital was much longer in India at 300 minutes compared to between 140 minutes and 170 minutes in developed countries. The researchers confirmed that people with heart diseases in India get slower care than people in developed countries. This in turn, increased risk of deaths due to heart diseases. Despite the availability of low cost generic drugs such as blood thinners, clot busters and cholesterol-lowering drugs, the mortality rate was highest in poor patients because of the differences in treatments and not risk factors.
Heart patients in India were found to be younger, with an average age of 57 years, than heart patients in many other countries. Further, South Asians had a higher prevalence of risk factors for heart diseases. Lack of good transportation to reach the hospital was specifically pointed as a major factor hindering good treatment in India. The researchers pointed out that the heart attack patients in India reached hospitals in rickshaws rather than ambulances, and looked for paying for the cheapest possible treatments out of their own pockets.
As the Indian economy grows, there is a possibility for further increase in cardiovascular diseases and thus, strategies should be drafted to reduce delays to access to hospitals and to improve the affordability of urgent care to reduce morbidity and mortality. Nonetheless, ensuring that the poor get better access to treatment could prevent deaths due to heart diseases in India.
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