Heart diseases among Indians occur five to ten years earlier than in other populations across the globe. According to the 2018-19 INTERHEART study, the median age for the first presentation of acute Myocardial Infarct (commonly known as a heart attack), in the South Asian (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) population is 53 years, whereas that in Western Europe, China, and Hong Kong it is 63 years. In India, the most worrying part is that heart ailments among younger people are on a constant rise.
We can easily blame this on the sedentary lifestyle and increased stress levels amongst the youth in India. The young age group of 25 to 39 years is mainly the victim of this kind of lifestyle. With the advent of technology, OTT platforms, mobile games, traditional modes of relaxation like going out with friends for a walk or sports are less common now. Lack of open space for playing, cycling, or recreation in most urban centers is only adding to the problems. Most of our school curriculums also have very little emphasis on sports or physical activity.
A heart attack suffered by a Bollywood choreographer Remo D' Souza at the age of 46 years throws light on the need for addressing cardiac concerns amongst the young population.
Dr. Brajesh Kunwar, Director-Interventional Cardiology, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, points out: "The minimum requirement of exercise as per guidelines is 35-45 minutes a day for four to five days a week, to fulfill the requirement of the heart and vital organs. Importantly, there is no work-life balance; the competitive culture of corporate entities has increased man-hours at work leading to chronic stress amongst the youth.
"Multiple other factors like smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Diabetes, Obesity, and hereditary factors play a major role. Smoking is a major dominant modifiable risk factor associated with young Coronary Artery Disease, patients. India is witnessing an increase in the incidence of smoking, especially among adolescents."
Also, it is important to note that our diagnostic capabilities have improved over the years. That's another reason why we see much higher numbers. But that of course is a good part. Having said that, we must understand that there is a critical need to prevent and tackle Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) among youth by way of a lifestyle change, he adds.
Now you might be wondering how people who seem fit or are fitness enthusiasts get heart diseases? Kunwar explains:
The role of genetic cholesterol: Well, while we feel that fitness and exercise are extremely necessary for a healthy life, it is not the only thing that can protect you from heart ailments. The food we eat, the lifestyle we lead, our stress levels, and genes also play an equivalent role. We all know that Indians are predisposed to Diabetes and CVDs, similarly many people also suffer from Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) which is a genetic condition.
People who have this condition are born with it; this defect prevents the body from ridding itself of the type of Cholesterol that can build up in your arteries and cause heart disease. So, people having this condition need to be more careful. There is medication available for treating this condition and patients can easily manage it with the help of a clinical expert.
Stress: A Silent killer: The grinding pace of modern lifestyle distracts our minds and affects our health for the worse. Stress has been said to be a major reason why the younger generation is prone to heart diseases. When you are exposed to long periods of stress, your body gives warning signals that something is wrong.
These physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral warning signs should not be ignored. They tell you that you need to slow down. If you continue to be stressed and you don't give your body a break, you are likely to develop health problems like heart disease. You could also worsen an existing illness.
Symptoms of Heart Attacks
Some of the warning sign of heart attacks include:
- Extreme chest pain and pressure
- Stabbing pain in the arm, neck, or jaw
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Sweating, and dizziness
Prevent Heart Ailments
Going forward, it is important to follow these healthy practices to prevent heart ailments at an early age:
- Control your blood pressure
- Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy diet
- Get regular exercise
- Limit alcohol intake and don't smoke
- Manage stress
- Make sure you sleep well
- Indulge in a moderate-intensity exercise like a brisk walk, swimming, etc. (Agency)