Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) remain the number one killer on earth. It kills twice the number of people as the second-largest killer-Cancer. Millions die every year due to heart attacks and sudden cardiac death. This year saw the end of many celebrities suddenly and unexpectedly due to what is believed to be sudden cardiac death (SCD). Starting from healthy journalist to young muscular film actor, it spares no one, unfortunately! It is also quite common-every two minutes, someone in the US may be dying due to an SCD.
Considerable advances in modern medicine, including drugs, life-saving technology, and catheters to reach deep recesses in the heart and stents, have enabled life to be saved in most acute cardiovascular conditions. Unfortunately, these breakthroughs in medicine have not translated into better care or decreased mortality and morbidity in chronic CVD. Hypertension, diabetes, and coronary artery disease are on the rise. Indians are believed to be genetically predisposed due to the smaller radius of the coronary arteries. Thus, they are likely to have their arteries blocked with a lesser load of deposited fat than their western counterparts. Stress, lack of exercise, an inappropriate diet adds to this milieu to create a high risk for CVD. Others have what is known as SCD, where the heart goes abnormally fast or stops. People die even before an ambulance can pick you up, or you get to call the person in the next room or any emergency services.
Yoga is a non-pharmacological, cost-effective, and safe intervention that has can ameliorate CVD risk. Unlike popularly known, yoga is not only ‘asanas’ or physical postures. It is a cumulative lifestyle that includes physical postures, mental exercise in mindfulness and meditation, breathing techniques, and an appropriate diet. This very concept of a completely new lifestyle is somewhat newfangled to the western populace and many Indians who continue to misinterpret yoga to be a bunch of physical exercises. The “yogic lifestyle,” as it is called, ensures healthy living and a robust cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular risk factors are decreased. There can be a decrease in the number of medications used to control hypertension. Diabetes is better managed. Weight loss can be seen in the obese population. Decreased obesity is also salutary in treating snoring and other sleep-related disorders.
Aberrant psychological states including anxiety, depression, and chronic stress augment CVD and potentiate death in patients with a heart attack. Though depression can be managed by medications, there are, unfortunately, no full-proof drugs. It is essential to comprehend that these drugs are partially effective but come with side effects. They make people sleepy or having hangovers which could be dangerous. Some are known to potentiate suicide amongst kids and teenagers taking them. Yoga may be an answer to this by regulating human behavior to decrease cardiovascular and stroke risks and ameliorate stress, which plays a vital role in the etiology of these diseases.