While swirling to garba songs this Navratri, also make sure to take necessary precautions for your heart health to avoid any medical emergencies during or after the celebrations.
When performed with high fervor for a long duration, garba is just like any other intense workout session. So, it is advisable — especially for those with already existing cardiac conditions, a family history of such issues or those not accustomed to intense physical exertion in their daily lives — to consult an expert before choosing to dance all the night away.
Experts say many people undergo heart screenings these days — probably in reaction to the various video clips on social media about sudden cardiac deaths.
“Sudden cardiac arrests used to happen earlier as well,” says Dr Krunal Tamakuwala, interventional cardiologist, KD Hospital, Ahmedabad. “But now more people are aware of it due to social media. So, out of fear and anxiety, many come for routine screenings.”
However, he adds that these heart screenings won’t have the desired effect unless the person tries to consistently follow a heart-healthy lifestyle with moderate physical activity and a healthy diet.
Can your heart stop suddenly?
People with risk factors like obesity, diabetes and hypertension should be especially careful while participating in garba, warn experts. You should always start any physical activity gradually and only slowly increase its intensity and duration after consulting a physician, they say.
“When people start garba, they often lose track of time and end up dancing for hours together,” says Dr Vivek Mahajan, consultant, interventional cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Mumbai. “This can cause dehydration and low blood pressure.”
He adds that people diagnosed with a weak heart that is unable to pump blood efficiently and those with underlying cardiac conditions are more prone to heart failure from high-intensity physical activity.
Don’t let diabetes stop your heart
Experts advise people with diabetes not to fast during festivals but to have small meals at regular intervals to avoid any episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
“If they are on some medications and they go on a fast, there’s a high chance that they will have hypoglycemia,” Dr Mahajan says. “And when they break the fast with a heavy meal, it can cause hyperglycemia [high blood sugar]. This sudden swing in sugar levels can lead to heart attack, which can precipitate to heart failure.”
To avoid sudden hypoglycemic episodes, he recommends changing the medications on medical advice.
Dancing continuously for hours can also cause hypoglycemia. Hence, people should carry some snacks in their pockets.
They should also carry their IDs with details of their medical conditions, which can come in handy in case of emergencies.
Sudden and asymptomatic heart attack in healthy people?
Experts say people with an existing heart condition and those who are aware of it can also do garba, provided they do not exert themselves and have sought medical advice. But many people do not know about their underlying heart issues and lipid profile, which adds to the risk of sudden heart attacks.
“They may have developed plaque in the coronary arteries which supply blood to the heart,” says Dr Tamakuwala. “So, a sudden vigorous activity can cause rupture in the artery, leading to sudden heart attack.”
Some people might have genetic conditions they are not aware of. Apart from poor lifestyle habits like smoking, alcohol consumption and drug abuse, genetic issues are among the causes of sudden heart attacks in young people. Experts recommend getting a heart screening done for people with these high-risk factors, especially those in their middle age, to rule out any underlying cardiac conditions before taking up intense physical activity.
Don’t get too anxious
Praful Maun, committee member, Shree Indiranagar Gujarati Association, Bangalore, says in over 30 years of organizing garba during Navratri, he has never come across anyone collapsing on the dance floor or heard of anyone undergoing heart screenings before the festival. “I believe the rise in sudden heart attack [incidents] is a fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he says.
But it is always good to be cautious. Cardiologists say it is best to incorporate moderate physical activity and a healthy diet in your daily life.
Apart from maintaining a healthy lifestyle, Dr Tamakuwala says one should also undergo some of the following basic heart-health tests before taking up any strenuous and high-intensity physical activity:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): A painless five-minute test to analyze the electrical activity of the heart at rest to detect any variation in heart rate.
- Stress or treadmill test: A 20-minute test that monitors the heart’s response to physical exertion. You will be asked to walk on a treadmill and then to slowly increase pace while your heart rate will be monitored through ECG.
- Echo test: Ultrasound waves are used to map the inner structure of the heart and its valves to check for any structural and functional defects that could lead to serious conditions, including cardiac arrest and heart attack.
- Experts say while more people are getting routine heart checkups done, many of them fail to consistently take proper lifestyle measures to prevent heart problems.
- They advise a proper health checkup before participating in any moderate to high-intense physical activity.
- People with risk factors like diabetes, obesity, hypertension and poor lifestyle habits are at risk of sudden heart attacks.
- People with diabetes should avoid fasting to keep a check on fluctuating sugar levels that can cause heart palpitations.
- Doctors advise against overexerting yourself during the Navratri festival while dancing for hours together.