KOCHI: The majority of cardiovascular diseases are preventable with slight lifestyle interventions, says Dr Jeemon Panniyammakal who bagged the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology recently. “The changes can be as small as limiting the amount of sugar in your coffee,” he says.
An associate professor of Epidemiology at Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies (AMCHSS), Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Dr Jeemon has been researching cardiovascular diseases for the past 16 years. “In cardiology, we say that time is muscle. Time wasted is proportional to the area of the muscle being affected and cells lost,” says Jeemon, highlighting the need to get help in time. The award is instituted by the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) India.
A native of Nilambur, Jeemon’s novel model that prevents cardiovascular diseases was published in the medical journal Lancet Global Health. The research delved on ‘family-based cardiovascular risk reduction intervention in individuals with a family history of premature coronary heart disease in India’. “We have found that through customised advice, lifestyle interventions, screening for risk factors and by bringing the whole family under surveillance, mortality can be reduced by 20 per cent. In Kerala, 50,000 people die from heart attacks every year. A family-based intervention can avert many deaths,” says Jeemon.
Dr Jeemon credits his journey into the research field to his mentors Dr K Srinath Reddy, former cardiology department head of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Dr Dorairaj Prabhakaran. His first study was sentinel surveillance of cardiovascular risk factors in the Indian industrial population. The team ran assessments at ten large industries across India and developed an interventional model to reduce cardiovascular risk among employees and families.