Why Indians face heart disease risk more, finds out US doctor of Kerala origin

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Dr Enas says that consumption of excess sugar, fast food, fat etc. should be controlled from the time children turn two years of age to ward off heart diseases.
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Findings of the research carried out by Dr Enas A Enas, a cardiac surgeon based in the United States, over the last 20 years should make Indians aware of a major health catastrophe they are facing. Incidentally, Dr Enas hails from Kerala and his passage to the US is also an interesting story.

The doctor found that Indians are increasingly becoming heart patients and that the reason for this is the presence of lipoprotein (a). Dr. Enas delivered over 1,000 talks in various countries, including India, to spread this message. A book by Dr Enas dealing with the topic titled ‘How to beat heart disease among South Asia’ has already sold 20,000 copies.

The beginning

Enas was born at Ullanad, near Pala, and his father migrated to Thiruvambady in Kozhikode when Enas was three years old. At that time, Thiruvambady was a wild place with no roads, schools or hospitals. Malaria was rampant then and Enas lost three of his siblings to the disease.

However, Enas’s father Mathayi Enas refused to return to Ullanad and dreamed of building a new life by farming at Thiruvamabady. His hard work produced results and a school, police station and post office came up at the rural hamlet in Kozhikode district.

A church was also built on four acres of land donated by Mathayi. However, there were some disputes over the construction and Enas’s father went to jail on two occasions.

Five wasted years

Enas joined the Sacred Heart Lower Primary School in Class 1 but the school functioned at the church. The school earned recognition one year later and Enas had to spend another year in Class 1.

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Former Union Minister Vayalar Ravi (3R) launches the book 'How to Beat Heart Disease Among South Asia'. Dr Enas (2L) hands over the book.

Later, his mother’s demise while studying in Class 10 forced Enas to skip school for three more years to look after his five younger siblings aged below 10 years.

Enas realized that his mother died due to lack of proper treatment after childbirth and decided to become a doctor. He joined the pre-university course at Devagiri College, Kozhikode and subsequently pursued MBBS at Kozhikode Medical College in 1963. However, there was more bad luck as some pranks by classmates led to the suspension of Enas from college for a year. He approached the court and the case even went to the High Court but all was in vain.

However, things were to change for the better soon. Dr Thomas P Thomas, a doctor hailing from Thiruvambady and settled in the US, helped Enas pursue higher studies there. Enas cleared the internal medicine board exam, paving the path for his advanced education in the US.

For heart’s sake

Those days, more people died of heart attack than cancer or stroke and many researchers wondered whether heart disease spread like tuberculosis. Smoking, hypertension and cholesterol were cited as the causes for heart disease but even many doctors were not convinced.

Dr Enas found an ideal topic of research and spent 40 years searching the causes of heart attacks while also serving at Naperville Edward Hospital and Downers Grove Good Samaritan Hospital.

A curious finding made Dr Enas sit up. Indians had thrice the chances of Englishmen, seven times that of Chinese and 30 times that of South Africans to suffer from heart ailments. Moreover, the number of heart patients in India increased by 3-4 per cent every year. Compared to people from other countries, Indians became heart patients 10 years earlier. Research in this regard ultimately led Dr Enas to the area of changes in the genetic structure among Indians. He discovered that the presence of lipoprotein (a) was significantly higher among Indians compared to other nationalities. But a question remained. Why this issue was not noticed 50 years ago?

Dr Enas concluded that old generations in India engaged in hard physical labour which suppressed lipoprotein (a). However, lack of physical activity and junk food changed things for the worse. Obesity, high blood sugar level and hypertension became common among Indians, making them susceptible to heart disease.

The cardiologist says that consumption of excess sugar, fast food, fat etc. should be controlled from the time children turn two years of age.

Recognitions

Among the honours Dr Enas has received include the top award of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin. He is the founder director of Coronary Artery Diseases in Indians Foundation and the directory he published as president of Association of Kerala Medical Graduates is a landmark. His ‘Syro Malabar Story of Chicago’ dealing with the history of Christians since the arrival of St Thomas in India is also notable.

Dr Enas is married to Mary, an advocate, who had attended the same college as him. Their son Manoj works at a bank in the USA.

Life is simple 7

Dr Enas has prepared a 7-point advisory for Indians to prevent heart disease:

» Don’t smoke

» Exercise for 30 minutes every day

» Eat nutritious food

» Avoid obesity

» Keep blood sugar level below 100

» Blood pressure should be between 80 and100

» Cholesterol level has to be below 140 mg. LDL below 70.

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