As long as the blood flows, life continues. Allow that obstruction to take hold and life will come to a standstill, sooner rather than later. World-renowned cardiologist Dr Fayaz Shawl says the body is like a car. To keep the engine running requires periodic check-ups and regular servicing.

By Sushil Kutty

Published: Mon 12 Jan 2004, 2:02 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:40 AM

DRINK everybody's drink ...water. The prescribed volume is 14 to 16 glasses, per 24 hours. Drink that much and you will swim free. Cut down on that intake and there's the risk of drowning in the mistake. Shun the periodic health check-up and the mistake is compounded. Then the heart could play truant, the legs might give up, the kidneys could call it a day or the brain might act up. That last, after the carotid pulls down the shutters.

Says who? Says Dr Fayaz Shawl, the world's foremost interventional cardiologist and director of interventional cardiology in Washington Adventist Hospital, USA, who was in the UAE recently, courtesy Dr Zulekha Daud of Zulekha Hospital, Sharjah, to dispense simple home truths on how to live long to live happy.

"Water keeps the body tip-top," says Dr Shawl, the same way a lubricant keeps a car ship-shape. According to him, people in the UAE don't drink enough water.

Water does more than lubricate the throat, it helps metabolise the food we consume.

The annual health check-up is a must. Especially for men over 40, and women post-menopause. But make that visit to the hospital when in fine fettle, as they do it in the USA ...when the sun's shining, when the heart's full of laughter, the hands are pumping iron and the legs are like pistons working the engine. Make it late, when on the last legs, and that might as well be taken for an order for a crutch, he says.

"That clot in the leg artery will not be denied, for long, if it is there," says Dr Shawl.

"In the US," says Dr Shawl, "People go for a health check-up when they are healthy", leaving unsaid the fact that here as in much of the rest of the world, that annual pilgrimage to the hospital is given the go-by till sickness strikes.

And sickness will strike if the lifestyle is gross. Food habits like living on junk and the fat-rich-high-cholesterol (oil is a killer), vice-like habits like smoking and drinking (only a glass-a-day not 14 or 16!), and 'handed-down-over-the-generations' disadvantages like a family history of diabetes or heart diseases besides the genetically-given like the South Asian Apple Belly, these make up the gross, the net of which all could be an out-of-the-blue heart attack or that sudden stroke.

In the West, awareness makes the difference. In the East, which beats the West to second place only when it comes to sunrise, it is at best a gamble or a guess, even now. In the West, 'old' is when the body and soul hit 90, and 40 when life begins, in earnest. Then too, age is just a number in the mind.

Age 40 is also when it is time to get serious on periodic health check-ups. Cross that rubicon, and it's time to take stock. For, by then, depending on the lifestyle led, certain very certain, unless thwarted, killers make it to striking distance. Up close could be a set of heart ailments. Second to none of them the "worse than death" stroke. Within range a tumble of vascular conditions brought about by aberrations like smoking and medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Look out for bad cholesterol and those with a family of heart diseases are at a higher risk. Certain hormones protect women, but not for long. With them post-menopause is time to make a move.

Dr Shawl's "biggest practice is diagnosis". Prevention, which boils down to making appropriate lifestyle changes - and ensuring that periodic health check-up - is the best cure. Dr Shawl suggests a raft of 'dos' that includes an ultrasound of the arteries of the leg, kidney and the neck. The key is in keeping the lifeblood flowing - no stops, no barriers, much like a city's drainage system. A single blockage and the flow comes to a standstill, threatening a spillover of problems.

Check on triglycerides, their levels in the blood. Also on bad cholesterol. Diabetics should keep an eye on blood sugar levels and a stress isotope test is mandatory for all those who have crossed 40, and women post-menopause. There's treatment available, drugs and minimal invasive surgery ...making appropriate lifestyle changes. Drug-coated stents are the latest, besides other advances in cardio-vascular medicine.

Everything depends on the state of the body, its vascular performance. Dr Shawl is per se against all invasive surgeries. There are other ways, he says, from medicines to knifeless surgery, some of which he has pioneered and perfected. The good news is that there's a possible tie-up on the cards between Dr Shawl and Zulekha Hospital, which has plans to set up a state-of-the-art catheter lab in place in its soon-to-open Zulekha Hospital in Dubai.

That should call for a glass of water. And while at it, don't forget to get that ultrasound done. Who wants a crutch?

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