According to Dr. Dani, a precursor in the field of cardiology, India is in the midst of the heart epidemic. Precautions need to be taken or else it can hamper the growth of the country.

What are the first five things to be kept in mind when it comes to heart problems?
There are several reasons for heart problems but the first five would be:

  • Diabetes
  • Blood Pressure
  • High cholesterol Levels
  • Cigarette smoking and less physical activity or no physical activity
  • Family history

I would say family history is a very important factor. If the parents ever suffered from heart problems then it is likely that the child will have heart problems. It could be because of certain chemicals and a lot many other factors. It can be because the family lives in the same area and under same environmental circumstances. Stress patterns are also inherited; the personality of a child also resembles to that of the parents. Genetic Polymorphisms also plays a part wherein the genes are identified and transmitted from father to son or mother to son. Heart problems may arise due to the genes though we have not been able to localize. We don’t know for sure what the reason is but family history indeed is a very important factor. 

What are the reasons behind heart problems detected at an early age?
These days heart problems have started occurring at an early age as compared to previous years. The reason could be change in the life style. By change in life style I mean exercise levels are going down, less physical activity, obesity is going up, the level of blood pressure and diabetes is rising, and stress level is also going up day by day. Moreover, the food habits have also changed as people have started taking more of junk and oily food which increases the cholesterol level. In our country, it’s the time of urbanization which brings changes in food habits. There is a lot of competition all around which increases stress levels. In rural areas people are much more physically active. But urbanization has brought in physical inactivity amongst people.
One thing that people have not realized so far is the impact of pollution. Increase in air pollution can also lead to increase in the heart diseases. This has been recognized in last four to five years and a lot many researches are being carried out on this. There are studies which say that people who live in more polluted areas and people who live in high traffic areas get more heart attacks. Hence there should be an air drive because in our country 70% of the air pollution comes from traffic. I think government needs to take a step on this. But government alone will not be able to do it and hence a lot of public awareness has to be brought in. Medical communities and NGOs also need to play a part. It has to be a tip bound approach. 

Your views regarding medical facilities in Gujarat
Medical facilities in Gujarat, in most of the medical specializations are par excellence and can be compared to any big city. Since last 50 years Ahmedabad is being compared with Mumbai. Every other Gujarati has a relative in Mumbai. I would say that since 1980 or let’s say around 1990’s Mumbai was far ahead of Ahmedabad. Medical facilities were practically non comparable at that time. But now things have changed. There is hardly any facility that is available in Mumbai and not available over here. Barring a few human brains there is no dearth of human skill or technology. Even here we find really good doctors. Now even the equipments and infrastructure and everything is almost at par.
Even if we talk about medical facilities across the globe, I would say that Indian doctors are as good as the doctors in other developed countries. In foreign countries if you take the top 50 doctors there would be 10 Indians. So I don’t think there is any difference as far as doctors are concerned. Coming to the hospitals, there is no difference in the equipments. Even we operate on the same equipments used by the foreign countries. But, the difference is there in the para medical staff. The difference may be less in the top class institutes but the gap does exist. We need to train our nursing staff and other para medical staff. One reason could be that para medical profession has still not acquired repute in the Indian market. It is not a profession that people go by choice. This is not the case in the western countries. Nurses or any other para medical staff is well paid and the profession is also respected over there.
It has been observed that people from over the globe come to Ahmedabad to get treated. Cost cutting is the reason behind this. People are very cost conscious. In Ahmedabad the medical facilities are provided at a lower cost as compared to the other parts of the world and that too using the same skill and technology. Not only the people but even the service providers are cost conscious. Hence Ahmedabad attracts patients from various countries. 

Which all heart diseases are found among patients and what precautions should be taken for the same?
These days the biggest problem is the coronary heart disease. Second problem that is on the rise in India is the valvular heart disease which affects the valves of the heart. Third problem is the congenital heart disease, a heart disease right from birth. It is common but it goes unnoticed amongst children. Apart from these diseases there are other heart problems which are seen after pregnancy and many others but they are not too common.
Awareness about healthy lifestyle is the most important in order to prevent these diseases. Moreover, Gujarat government is running a very good programme on school health scheme. The programme covers the children very well. Very high rate of detection since last few years has lead to a high rate of treatment. I think this is one of the best programmes by the government.

It is found that cholesterol accumulates since childhood. How can one lower the cholesterol level?
Firstly, we should teach our children about the healthy lifestyle, what is good and what is not good. Importance of being active etc. also needs to be explained. Prevention of the society starts right from the children. Schools should cover the issue in their curriculum. Teachers should teach their students about healthy lifestyle. In a nutshell, it’s all about being and staying healthy. 

What are the first aid steps to be taken during a heart attack?
First of all clear the area if you suspect that somebody is having a heart attack. Make him lie down if possible. It is most important to give him chewable aspirin tablet. If it is the known case of heart problems than you can give him a Sorbitrate under the tongue and then take him to the nearest hospital. 

Out of all medical specializations, why did you choose being a cardiologist?
It was just accidental. I loved the field of medicine. I was a gold medalist and could choose anywhere between a neurologist and a cardiologist. I actually wanted to become a neurologist but when I appeared for the entrance exam, neurology seats were cancelled by the university. So as there was no neurology available, I joined cardiology and started liking it so never changed it.
There are a number of reasons why I started liking cardiology. Cardiology is a branch that has developed the maximum in last 30 years. It has shown a tremendous progress. Moreover, the stress is on saving life. It is a very cutting edge technology as you are walking on edge all the time. One wrong step and your patient could die. This is not the case with all the branches of medicine. There are other branches of medicine where you have time to correct your mistakes. If something has gone wrong and if we realize it one hour or two hours later, we can still correct it. It’s less so in cardiology, it is stressful but it is mentally rewarding when you save someone’s life. A cardiologist needs to be a perfectionist because the Hippocratic Oath says that do not do any harm if you cannot make it better. 

How did you become one of the Board of Director’s of Life Care hospital?
I wanted to do something and wished to bring change in the way the hospitals are run. Life Care is a small hospital but we have many cutting edge instruments there. Life Care has instruments which are not there in any small hospitals of its kind. We cut down the profits and instead of taking home the profits, we invest in technology. We even have a few instruments which are not there even in bigger hospitals like there is a facility for 3D angiography. We have intracoronary Doppler which Life Care was the first one to buy in the whole state. All this is something which we do not talk about or advertise but it gives us comfort in operating. So the reason was to start a hospital with good technology.

The use of stem cells during heart failure is being talked about these days, what is your thought on that?
The use of stem cells for the cure of heart diseases is controversial. Stem cells are supposed to regenerate and theoretically it will help the damaged tissue or the dead tissue. Hence the heart muscle which was dead or damaged could be replaced by a good muscle. The problem is that it doesn’t even work 50%. Stem cells are very promising thing but yet we do not have a sure shot method which can provide a desired result. People are still working on the subject of a cell tissue helping a heart tissue. It is not a standard treatment. Even in western countries it is done on the experimental basis.

Narrate the best memorable experience during your career so far.
There are many such incidences so I will have to pick and choose. But I will tell you about one particular patient whose heart stopped after the bypass. There patient was young nearly the age of 39-40. The case was complicated so we did not have much time. As a result we had to take quick steps. The patient just had his bypass two days prior to the incident. As a result, we couldn’t even give him chest compressions. His condition was critical and we were running out of time. So ultimately, we opened his chest to give him an open heart massage in which we pump the heart with our hands. We pumped his heart for nearly two to two and a half hours and it was slowly coming back. Finally it came back to life. But after a prolonged heart massage, the heart got so swollen that we could not close the chest. We had to keep his chest open for three to four days till it came back to its original size. The patient went home after staying in the hospital for one and a half months. Almost all of us had thought that the patient was dead but by the grace of god we could bring him back to life. Six to seven years have passed and today the patient is fit and fine.

Message to the society
Preventing the heart disease epidemic is the most important thing. We are already in the midst of heart epidemic and if we do not pay proper attention to that, we will have to pay a heavy cost. It will hamper India’s progress. If your youth is taken away then we cannot progress. If a 40 year old suffers from a heart attack than he cannot produce what he is supposed to produce. So many resources are wasted. I just treated a heart patient aging 39 years. His angioplasty costed Rs. 2 lakh. Over and above, he will not be able to work properly for a certain period of time. Hence it has a direct impact on the available resources which will adversely affect the economy. 

Dr. Sameer Dani, MD, DM, Director- Department of Cardiology, Interventional Cardiologist.

A doctor according to me is not just a life saver but a life giver, especially the cardiologist who deals with the most important organ; the heart. I got an opportunity to interview Dr. Sameer Dani, one of the ace cardiologists in India. Not having a science background I thought it might be difficult to interview someone having abundant knowledge in the field. But I found him to be different than the other doctors. He explained even the medical terms in such a simple and lucid manner that it easily entered my mind. I had the luck to see him treating his patients. Inspite of the stressful work that a cardiologist usually has to do, he was skillful and calm.  Apart from being a doctor, I found him to be a true patriot, a true Indian who thinks about Indian youth, about the economy and the society of the country.”

Written by: Dhara vasavada