Cholesterol check must become part of diabetes and BP screening to improve India’s Heart Health: Experts

New Delhi : FICCI convened the ‘National Roundtable on Unmet Needs in Heart Health and elevate the underrated risk factors’ on Friday to bring the spotlight on elevating the underrated risk factors with key policymakers, key medical experts, and representatives from the healthcare industry.

Globally, over 18 million people die annually due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD), surpassing cancer, respiratory disease, and diabetes collectively. India accounts for one-fifth of these CVD deaths worldwide and those affected are at least 10 years younger as compared to the population in the West.

During the Roundtable, the healthcare experts stressed adopting the ‘3 at 30 check-up protocol’ recommending people over 30 years of age to annually get their HBA1c (for Diabetes), BP and LDL Cholesterol levels checked. The experts also emphasized that cholesterol check must be included in Diabetes and BP screening to improve India’s cardiac health.

“On one side, India is on the journey of economic growth and on the other, we are saddled with these non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that are draining resources,” said Dr Narottam Puri, Adviser, FICCI Health Services. He also highlighted the need for consistent efforts towards identifying and lowering the risk factors for non-communicable diseases.

Experts acknowledged that one of the risk factors to cardiovascular disease, a major NCD can be attributed to low-density lipoprotein or LDL. They also recognized that while diabetes and hypertension are often screened, it is LDL or the bad cholesterol that is currently being missed and is one of the most modifiable risk factors responsible for atherosclerosis.

Dr Dorairaj Prabhakaran, Director, of Centre for Control of Chronic Conditions, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) said, “India has lower total cholesterol but high LDL and apo B. Hence, the population is currently at a higher risk of atherosclerosis as compared to the western population. We have an urgent need to bring down LdL<70 and shift the lens to a population-based approach from high-risk population approach.”

Dr Balram Bhargava, Chief Cardio-Thoracic Sciences Centre, AIIMS, & Former Secretary DHR & DG ICMR, New Delhi added that it is important to know your numbers at the age of 30 which includes blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar. He also shared the Rule of 80 stating, “For good heart health, a diastolic BP of 80, fasting sugar less than 80, LDL-C less than 80, and walking 80 km per month, staying 80 metres away from smoking should be followed.”

Dr SK Modi, Senior Consultant Cardiology, Apollo said, “Acute myocardial infarction or sudden cardiac death may be the first event in 2/3 of patients with coronary artery disease hence, knowing your risk factors from a very early age, particularly if your family has a history of myocardial infarction is of the utmost importance.”

Dr Sandeep Bansal, Professor and HOD of Cardiology, Safdarjung Hospital said, “You should know your ‘3 at 30’ – HbA1c, blood pressure, cholesterol to maintain optimum heart health.”

“We cannot ignore lipids – LDL should be screened since ultimately, 1mmol reduction in LDL over 5 years leads to a 23 per cent reduction in the major cardiac event. The lower the LDL, the better and healthier it is for an individual, recommended Dr JPS Sawhney, Senior Consultant, Cardiology Department, Sir Gangaram Hospital.

Mr Deepak Sahni, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Healthians stated that while testing 2.6 million people across 250 cities, it was found that 64 per cent of males and 63 per cent of females have high levels of bad cholesterol, and these levels are highest in the 31-40 age group.

Mr A K Pradhan, Joint Drugs Controller (India) said, “India has leaped with a strong and progressive regulatory system with the New Drug and Cosmetics Act 2019. While there is an urgent need to improve access to medicine, it is only possible when every stakeholder of the healthcare ecosystem takes their role seriously and encourages innovators.”

Mr Amitabh Dube, Country President and Managing Director, Novartis in India said, “We need to prioritize LDL as a risk factor for managing cardiovascular disease beyond diabetes and hypertension, encouraging innovation & partnerships in the healthcare ecosystem along with accelerating access to treatment for our patients.”