After Puneeth Rajkumar's death, Bengaluru hospitals report rise in cardiac checkups

Forty-six-year-old Kannada superstar Puneeth Rajkumar died on October 29 in Bengaluru, after he suffered a cardiac arrest.
Late actor Puneeth Rajkumar wearing a white shirt
Late actor Puneeth Rajkumar wearing a white shirt
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Bengaluru hospitals have been reporting an increase in the number of patients coming in for heart-related tests and checkups following the death of Kannada Superstar Puneeth Rajkumar. The 46-year-old actor died on Friday, October 29, in Bengaluru, after he suffered a cardiac arrest. According to Dr CN Manjunath, director of Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Science in Bengaluru, “Following the sudden demise of Puneeth Rajkumar, there has been a 30% to 35% increase in the number of patients who come in for cardiovascular check-ups.”

On average, the outpatient department (OPD) of the hospital sees 1,200 patients per day. On November 1, which was a public holiday on account of Kannada Rajyotsava, the hospital saw a total of 1,700 patients in the OPD, said Dr Manjunath. “People have been coming into our OPD for a heart check-up. We are conducting basic tests such as ECG (electrocardiogram), X-ray and echocardiogram. We are also conducting the treadmill (exercise stress) test if required,” he added.

A similar increase was reported at Apollo Hospital in Bengaluru’s Seshadripuram. Uday Davda, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Apollo Hospital’s Seshadripuram branch, said they reported a 30% increase in the number of cardiac tests in the last few days. According to him, the hospital generally records around 50-60 patients per day for heart-related tests. Since Puneeth Rajkumar’s death, the number increased to 80 patients per day. 

These are just the actual tests done; the enquiries about these tests are much higher, he added. “We cannot accommodate everyone since we have a limitation in the capacity of patients we can take in for the checks,” said Uday.

While the uptick in demand for cardiac tests cannot be wholly attributed to Puneeth’s death, the incident has got many concerned. The young actor used to be known for following a healthy lifestyle, including exercising regularly. He also didn't have any history of heart ailments either. According to doctors whom TNM spoke to, the increase in patients was a “panic reaction.” 

“Even before Puneeth Rajkumar's episode, many young people have had heart attacks and cardiac arrests. The fact that he was a popular figure who was a fitness buff and still this happened, has shocked many people. They think that if this can happen to him, it could happen to them also,” said Dr Keshava R, Director of Cardiology at Fortis Hospital’s Cunningham Road branch in Bengaluru.

Uday noted that the increase in the number of people getting a heart checkup is, actually, a positive development. “The burden of non-communicable disease is high in a country like India. Besides, prevention is better any day. We always recommend everybody take regular health checkups. We have the infrastructure and facilities to save lives. Taking tests will at least give us warning signs to take corrective measures,” Uday explained.

Dr Manjunath also concurred. “It is good that this has created a lot of awareness. Even if people feel they are healthy, such tests will serve as self-reassurance. It might even prompt people to take regular annual health checkups from now,” he said. 

However, he also expressed concerns over the strain that the sudden demand could put on the existing healthcare system, which could even result in crowding in hospitals.

When asked about the appropriate measures one must take to maintain good heart health were, Dr Manjunath said, “Those having multiple risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension and a strong history of heart attacks in the family, can undergo a cardiac evaluation. In addition, if one gets symptoms such as chest pain, burning sensation in the chest while walking and bending, they, too, need to undergo a cardiac evaluation.”

He explained why: “The burden of cardiovascular disease in India among youngsters is on the rise. In fact, as per our own data, 30% of heart attacks in India are among those below the age of 40. So men above 35 and women above 45 should undergo a comprehensive cardiac evaluation for better monitoring.”

Dr Keshava, however, pointed out that health checkups are only one part of staying healthy. “People don't realise that health is an ongoing process and you go for a checkup one day and forget about it afterwards. You have to keep your risk factors under control and you need to exercise regularly, and keep your sugar, hypertension and cholesterol under control,” he said.

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