Park Ridge hospital's video series dispels myths to reduce South Asian community's heart disease risk

PARK RIDGE, Ill. (WLS) -- South Asians - people who trace their roots to India, Pakistan and other countries of the subcontinent - make up some 20% of the world's population, but 60% of the heart disease burden.

They're at four times the risk for heart attack and stroke compared to the rest of the population for many reasons, including genetics, diet and stress. But there's also misinformation.

The South Asian Cardiovascular Center at Advocate Lutheran Hospital in Park Ridge is trying to change that, because people should not be having heart attacks before age 40.

Munaf Patel, 45, had his second heart attack eight months after his first. He was only 40 at the time.

"I was at work and I was about to faint," Patel said. "I was on my medication. I was taking it regularly, but all of a sudden. The second time was more scarier."

For Patel, improved eating and more exercise has delivered results, as well as identifying bad information. It's a focus of the Dil Se video series from Advocate Lutheran Hospital.

"There is a myth that traditional fats like ghee, which is clarified butter, or coconut oil are somehow healthy fats and oils for South Asians, when in fact, the science tells us they are not," said Dr. Shoeb Sitafalwalla, medical director at the South Asian Cardiovascular Center.

Dil Se means "from the heart."

"There are myths within the community that if you have heart disease, you don't need to be on particular medicines, that you can 'clean out your arteries' through different concoctions, including apple cider vinegar," Dr. Sitafalwalla said. "They basically say it's the Drano for coronary arteries. But it is absolutely false."

The hospital's Dil Se videos tackle misconceptions such as dark spots being fixed by lemon juice.

"Look, if you have dark spots on your neck or folds of your skin, that is a medical condition called akantosis-nigra, which is a sign of likely uncontrolled diabetes," Dr. Sitafalwalla said. "It is not the lemon juice you need, you need to see a doctor."

The Dil Se videos have been viewed for nearly 100,000 minutes.

"When you have a community that at baseline is at such a high risk and it doesn't take too much to push them over the edge, these incremental changes - and for some they may just be incremental - make a huge difference," he said.

Patel's wife, Naseema Patel, said she tries to make healthy food, but added that "it is kind of hard to make Indian food healthy."

"You have to have the oil on top of the curry, that's the tradition, you know?" Naseema Patel said. "But you know, there's none of that in our house."

Dr. Sitafalwalla said Munaf Patel's story is similar to many they hear every day at the South Asian Cardiovascular Center.

"You have to make sure that the people that are making the claims have done the research, have the authority to say what they are saying," Dr. Sitafalwalla said.

The center plans to make more Dil Se videos with eating plans, recipes and scientific advice on how to combat heart disease. The videos are free for use in clinical settings worldwide.
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