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Why Narayana Murthy’s 70-hour work week isn’t for everybody: This 40-year-old suffered heart attack doing just that | Health and Wellness News


Karthik Melkote enjoys his 5.30 am run. Not because it has rescued him from a heart attack but because it has turned him into a marathoner. He meets his cousins every alternate weekend, sleeps by 10 pm and has an hourly pop-up on his computer, reminding him to get up from his work station and take a stroll. Not only that, the 40-year-old marketing professional from Bengaluru chooses night flights instead of early morning ones so that he can sleep well and get enough time to exercise at whichever city he’s visiting. It took a midnight heart attack to convince him that chasing 12 to 16-hour routines daily at his office had cost him his greatest asset: his health.

At a time when Infosys founder Narayan Murthy’s remarks that young adults should work 70 hours a week — which means about 12 hours for six days assuming Sundays are off — Karthik represents what pushing the body to extreme limits does at an individual level. In fact, his heart attack happened while he was finishing an assignment late at night. He drove to the hospital in time. With 100 per cent blockage in one artery and 90 per cent in the other two, he underwent an angioplasty and stenting to open them up. “From my early 20s, I was always on full throttle, with long hours and travelling 15 to 20 days a month. I never walked or exercised and slept a maximum of four to five hours. The only social life was about binge-eating or partying with colleagues after work,” says Karthik.

A work-oriented lifestyle meant that he never developed social companionships. That vacuum he filled with food addiction. “I would always order food at odd hours to beat stress. I was a heavy smoker, became obese, hypertensive, even took medication for my blood pressure given my family history of heart attacks, but I never went for a health check-up,” adds Karthik.

WHAT’S CHANGED NOW

With these seemingly simple but necessary tweaks, Karthik felt much more relaxed and in control of his life. “I sleep by 10 pm, wake up at 5 am. Then I go for my walk and run, have breakfast, do some household chores and even some office prep work. I have made friends on my walks and one of them got me interested in marathons,” he says.

He took up running following cardiac rehab and a heart endurance test. He began with 3-km walks in 40 minutes. Then he took up mixed routines, alternating jogging with walking. Finally, he was ready when he completed the 5 km run-and-walk routine in 52 minutes. “Stents open up your arteries and keep them wide enough for the blood to flow to the heart properly. They are not a risk to any physical activity provided they are lodged inside in a graded manner,” says Dr Kumar Kenchappa, Interventional Cardiologist at Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru, who saved Karthik.

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kartik melkote It took a midnight heart attack to convince him that chasing 12 to 16-hour routines daily at his office had cost him his greatest asset: his health.

LONG HOURS VS HEART

Having conducted heart awareness and lifestyle management workshops at corporate offices, the bulk of his patients are hypertensive IT professionals, with cholesterol and diabetes. “Employees working long shifts of 10-12 hours, stretched further by commute, almost always report weight gain and elevation of blood pressure and heart rate. There is now robust evidence that ‘job strain’, a combination of high job demands and low job control, is a risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke,” he says.

THE COMEBACK PLAN

He first eliminated Karthik’s behaviour-related risk factors like smoking, obesity, low physical activity and alcohol use. Sleep disturbances, particularly short sleep — although not always lifestyle-related — have also been found to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). “We corrected Karthik’s sleep pattern, taking it up from four to seven hours now. With cardiac rehabilitation, he began with slow walking of 45 minutes and increased the pace so that he could do brisk walking,” says Dr Kenchappa. With moderate walking and a balanced, home-cooked diet, Kartik lost weight. Gradually, he was upgraded to weight training and jogging.

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Then the doctor gave him some time management lessons. He made sure Karthik delegated work to his team, took a five-minute walk after sitting for an hour and had no late nights. But the most important part was getting him to value his limits and know when to stop and say no.

With all these tweaks, Karthik still manages to put in up to ten hours of work every day without feeling the weight of the world on him. “I have never felt fitter,” he says, spot-jogging for his warm-up.

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