Heart Care Tips : by Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty
A leading heart surgeon in India



Q What are the five thumb rules for a layman to take care of his heart?

A. 1. Diet – Less of carbohydrate, more of protein, less oil.
2. Exercise – half an hour’s walk, at least five days a week. Avoid lifts and avoid sitting for a long time.
3. Quit smoking
4. Control weight
5. Control blood pressure and sugar.

Q Is eating non-veg food (fish) good for the heart?

A. No

Q. It’s still a grave shock to hear that some apparently healthy person get a cardiac arrest. How do we understand it in perspective?

A. This is called silent attack. That is why, we recommend everyone past the age of 30 to undergo routine health check-ups.

Q Are heart diseases hereditary?

A. Yes

Q What are the ways in which the heart is stressed? What practices do you suggest to de-stress?

A. Change your attitude towards life. Do not look for perfection in everything in life.


Q Is walking better than jogging or is more intensive exercise required to keep a healthy heart?

A. Walking is better than jogging since jogging leads to early fatigue and injury to joints.

Q You have done so much for the poor and needy. What has inspired you to do so?


A. Mother Theresa, who was my patient.


Q Can people with low blood pressure suffer heart diseases?

A. Extremely rare.

Q Does cholesterol accumulate right from an early age (I’m currently only 22) or do you have to worry about it only after you are above 30 years of age?

A. Cholesterol accumulates from childhood.

Q How do irregular eating habits affect the heart?

A. You tend to eat junk food when the habits are irregular and your body’s enzyme releases for digestion gets confused.

Q Can a healthy person without a medical history have a heart attack due to stress?

A. Extremely rare

Q How can I control cholesterol content without using medicines?

A. Control diet, walk and eat walnut.

Q Can yoga prevent heart ailments?

A. Yoga helps

Q, which is the best and worst food for the heart?

A. Best food is fruits, worst are oils.


Q If a person has undergone angioplasty, what are the chances of the stent getting displaced?

A. Stent doesn’t get displaced. It can get blocked. You could prevent it by controlling sugar, cholesterol and taking medication to prevent clots.


Q Do negative emotions like depression or anger always cause heart disease?

A. Not always. On the other hand, positive emotions help recovery of the heart.


Q I have read about music therapy for the heart and the mind. What is your opinion on this?

A. Guess, it helps.


Q Which oil is better – gingili, groundnut, sunflower, saffola, olive?

A. All oils are bad. The so-called best oil company has the largest marketing budget.



Q What is the routine check-up one should go through? Is there any specific test?

A. Routine blood test to ensure sugar, cholesterol is ok. Check BP, Treadmill test after an echo.


Q How different was it in treating Noor Fatima, the little kid from Pakistan?


A. It was extremely difficult because of the media attention. As far as the medical treatment is concerned, she was like any other child with a complex heart problem.





Q What are the first aid steps to be taken on a heart attack ?

A. Help the person into a sleeping position, put an Aspirin tablet under the tongue with a Sorbitrate tablet if available, and rush him to coronary care unit since the maximum casualty takes place within the first hour.

Q How do you differentiate between pain caused by a heart attack and that cause due to gastric trouble ?

A. Extremely difficult without ECG.

Q Can drinking less water lead to heart problems ?

A. No. However, drinking plenty of water in normal people helps preserve good health.

Q Is it true that diabetic women seem to have 3 to 7 times greater risk of developing heart diseases than non-diabetic women? Is it the same with high BP patients as well ?

A. Women are protected by the hormones till the age of 45. After that, their risk increases like men and in general, the result of treatment on heart patients who are women is slightly poorer than men.

Q What are some of the precautions during pregnancy to avoid heart problems in the new born ?



A. German measles, which causes congenital abnormalities in the babies. No smoking.




Q What is the main cause of a steep increase in heart problems amongst youngsters? I see people of about 30-40 years of age having heart attacks and serious heart problems.

A. Increased awareness has increased incidents. Also, sedentary lifestyles, smoking, junk food, lack of exercise in a country where people are genetically three times more vulnerable for heart attacks than Europeans and Americans.

Q What is the right time to check the BP in any person?

A. Past the age of 30 and earlier, if you have symptoms.

Q Is it possible for a person for a person to have BP outside the normal range of 120/80 and yet to be perfectly healthy ?

A. Yes

Q Are there any symptoms for heart problems, which we need to be aware of ?

A. Shortness of breath on exertion, and chest pain.

Q If a person has had a heart attack, how frequently is regular heart check-up recommend?

A. Once in 6 months.

Q Marriages within close relatives can lead to heart problems for the child. Is it true?

A. Yes, co-sanguinity leads to congenital abnormalities and you may not have a software engineer as a child.

Q Many of us have an irregular daily routine and many a time we have to stay in office till late nights. Does this affect our heart? What precautions would you recommend?

A. When you are young, nature protects you against all these irregularities. However, as you grow older, respect the biological clock.

Q How can we find out about blockage of arteries, beforehand?

A. Routine cardiac evaluation by blood test, ECGs, TMTs, Stress Thallium Scan, Cardiac CT Scan for Calcium score.

Q Does a recurring pain in the left arm signify any heart related ailment?

A. Usually, you get chest discomfort or shortness of breath, months or years before the heart attack. So, when in doubt, go for a heart check-up, which should not take more than a couple of hours.

Q Will taking anti-hypertensive drugs cause some other complications (short/long term) ?

A. Yes, most drugs have some side effects. However, modern anti-hypertensive drugs are extremely safe.

Q Will consuming more coffee/tea lead to heart attacks?

A. No

Q What are the chances of lean people developing heart complications? Are they at less risk?

A. Obese people are at a higher risk. Lean people also develop heart attacks, but primarily because of genetic predisposition.

Q Is it true that after open-heart surgery, patients lose memory-recall to some extent?

A. No. Especially after bypass grafting on a beating heart, incidence of neurological problems have come down significantly.

Q Are Asthma patients more prone to heart disease?

A. No

Q How would you define junk food?

A. Fried food like Kentucky, McDonalds, Samosas, and even Masala Dosas.

Q You mentioned that Indians are three times more vulnerable. What is the reason for this, as Europeans and Americans also eat a lot of junk food ?

A. Every race is vulnerable to some disease and unfortunately Indians are vulnerable for the most expensive disease.

Q Does consuming bananas help reduce hypertension?

A. No

Q Is there any cure for chronic palpitations?

A. The patient should be investigated and if there is a cause for palpitation like an electrical abnormality of the heart, this can be rectified by a procedure called radio-frequency-ablation.

Q How would you rate the health facilities currently available in India?

A. There are institutions, which are as good or even better than the one in the US and Europe. However, they are exceptions. In general, the qualities of health-care available to the masses are poor.






Q If there is a small hole in the heart, what are the possible ways of curing it? Is operation the only solution?

A. Small holes in children less than 6 months of age usually closes. But the decision not to operate should be taken by the specialists who are experts in treating children with heart problems.

Q Are emotions really controlled by heart?

A. No. The heart is just a slave of the brain and it is the brain, which controls the emotions.

Q If a person does not do any physical exercise, he is bound to have shortness of breath on exertion; say climbing stairs. Is this an indication of heart disease?

A. No. But if one has difficulty in breathing on mild exertion, it is better to go for a heart check-up.

Q Can a person help himself during a heart attack?

A. Yes. Lie down comfortably and put an aspirin tablet of any description under the tongue and ask someone to take you to the nearest coronary-care-unit without any delay and do not wait for the ambulance since most of the time, the ambulance does not turn up.










Q Do, in any way, low white-blood-cells and low hemoglobin-count lead to heart problems?

A. No. But it is ideal to have normal hemoglobin level to increase your exercise capacity.

Q Sometimes, due to the hectic schedule, we are not able to exercise. So, does walking while doing daily chores at home or climbing the stairs in the house, work as a substitute for exercise?

A. Certainly. Avoid sitting continuously for more than half an hour and even the act of getting out of the chair and going to another chair and sitting helps a lot.

Q Is there a relation between heart problems and blood sugar?

A. Yes. A strong relationship is there since diabetics are more vulnerable to heart attacks than non-diabetics.

Q Do bypass surgeries reduce the risk of future heart attacks ?

A. It significantly reduces the risk of heart attack.

Q What are the things one needs to take care of after a heart operation?

A. Diet, exercise, drugs on time. Control Cholesterol, BP and weight.

Q Are people working on night shifts more vulnerable to heart disease when compared to day shift workers?

A. No.

Q Can you brief us about angina attack? How major it is?

A. Angina is the pain, which comes on exertion and goes away with rest and medication. One has to be investigated in detail to plan treatment.

Q What are the modern anti-hypertensive drugs?

A. There are hundreds of drugs and your doctor will chose the right combination for your problem. But my suggestion is to avoid the drugs and go for natural ways of controlling blood pressure by walk, diet to reduce weight and changing attitudes towards lifestyle.

Q Does dispirin or similar headache pills increase the risk of heart attacks?

A. No

Q If there is about 85 percent blockage in the arteries, can the person be treated without surgery? If not, what other remedies and the power of your heart muscles

A. It depends on collateral or natural bypass, the quality of other arteries and the power of your heart muscles. It’s impossible to give an opinion without seeing the angiography film.

Q There is a feeling that bypass is unnecessarily being performed in some cases. When is bypass really needed?

A. When you have blockages affecting major arteries, bypass is the best option. I am sure, conscientious doctors will not perform an operation when it is not required.

Q Is it true that mechanical valves can fail any moment?

A. No. If you take medication to prevent clot formation and maintain the INR at accepted levels, the valve cannot get blocked. However, like any mechanical gadget, it can fail and fortunately, such incidences are extremely low.

Q Can you brief me on pulmonary stenosys problems? What are the complications involved and what care needs to be taken?

A. In this condition, the pulmonary valve is narrower at birth and putting a balloon across the valve and dilating it can easily correct it.

Q Why is it the rate of heart attacks more in men than in women?

A Nature protects women till the age of 45.

Q How can one keep the heart in a good condition?

A Eat a healthy diet, avoid junk food, exercise every day, do not smoke and, go for a health checkup if you are past the age of 30 for at least once in two years. And WORK VERY HARD.