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El Camino Hospital and Me

Akila’s Story: Heart Disease

Did you know South Asians have a higher risk of heart disease than other ethnic groups? Studies have shown that coronary artery disease strikes South Asians at a four-fold rate compared to the general population. Ongoing research also indicates that South Asians in the United States and in urban India suffer heart attacks at an earlier age, often without prior symptoms or warning.

As a native of India, Akila, who now lives in Silicon Valley, decided to learn more about her medical risk factors after attending an event hosted by the South Asian Heart Center at El Camino Hospital in the spring of 2012. What she learned has not only helped her to make important changes in her own life, it also has encouraged her to volunteer for the South Asian Heart Center so that she can help spread the word to others in the Bay Area's South Asian community.

"Both of my parents died prematurely as a result of cardiovascular disease," says Akila, who explains that her family medical history was one of the reasons she decided to learn more about South Asian health and her own cardiac disease risk.

"I went to my physician for a routine blood test and, unfortunately, found some elevated lipid results." (A lipid panel or lipid profile measures the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. The test helps to determine the risk of the buildup of plaques in the arteries throughout the body.)

"Soon after, I started working as a health coach at South Asian Heart Center, and began to make changes to my diet and exercise based on what I learned at the center and from my nutritional counselors," explains Akila.

"A year later, I had a follow-up blood test (through the South Asian Heart Center) and was astonished at the positive change in my results."

Clearly, her efforts had made a difference! Akila says being a South Asian Heart Center heart health coach has many rewards.

"I make follow-up calls to people who have chosen to participate in the program. I talk with them about their risk factors, and I check to see if they are following the recommendations they have been given for proper diet, exercise and stress management."

Akila says the calls are always positive and program participants appreciate having someone to talk to about their health concerns. "It's a terrific program."

In addition to being a health coach, Akila helps with the annual fundraiser for the South Asian Heart Center, which raises money for education, outreach and disease prevention. She feels that her contributions have truly made a difference in the community.

"I don't want anyone else to lose a parent, a child or a sibling to heart disease or stroke," she says.

Akila encourages anyone who is interested in learning more about the work of the South Asian Heart Center to learn more about their screening program, research and opportunities for involvement.

Thank you, Akila, for sharing your story and for helping to reach others!