Heart disease and young Indians: What makes them vulnerable? | The Financial Express

Heart disease and young Indians: What makes them vulnerable?

As Indians, we tend to consume a lot of trans fats which causes an increase in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and decreases in good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol), all of which can lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease. 

Heart disease and young Indians: What makes them vulnerable?
The company aims to convert the pharmacies in to e-clinics, it will enable them to offer customers doctor consultations, diagnostic tests and other basic procedures. (File)

By Dr. Viveka Kumar

Recently there has been alarming news of young Indians dying of heart-related ailments. The deaths of celebrities like – Puneeth Rajkumar, Siddharth Shukla and RJ Rachana – all under 50, from cardiac arrest, sent shockwaves through the country, with people wondering why young Indians were dying from this ailment that’s more commonly associated with people in their 50s and above.

One indicator is the overall statistics of young Indians suffering from heart-related ailments. According to the Indian Heart Association, Indians tend to suffer from heart disease at a much earlier age (almost 33 per cent earlier) than other demographics, and very often without prior warning. 50 per cent of all heart attacks in Indian men occur under the age of 50 and twenty-five per cent in men under 40. As for women, while global statistics indicate that the instances of cardiovascular diseases are declining among women, in India there’s been a 3% increase from 1990 to 2019. 

Why are young Indians at risk? 

There are a few factors that put young Indians more at risk of suffering from heart-related ailments. Some of them are: 

  • Genetic predisposition: Several studies have shown that Indians have a higher predisposition to heart disease and develop the ailment about 10 years before their global counterparts.One reason for this is the fact that Indians have smaller blood vessels as compared to people in the western hemisphere world – which increases their risk of suffering from the ailment.
  • Family history: If you have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension, you are at a higher risk of suffering from heart disease.
  • Associated illness: Other factors that put Indians at a higher risk are premature diabetes and obesity, which accelerate the deposition of fat within the blood vessels (atherosclerosis) – making you more prone to suffering a heart attack.  
  • Diet: As Indians, we tend to consume a lot of trans fats which causes an increase in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and decreases in good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol), all of which can lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
  • Stress: Stress leads to an increase in inflammation throughout your body, which can cause high blood pressure and lower LDL cholesterol levels – causing harm to your heart. Stress can affect your heart indirectly as well. For instance, when you’re stressed you tend to sleep poorly, exercise less, eat healthily or watch your weight. All these lifestyle changes can put your heart health at risk. 
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol: One of the biggest risk factors for heart disease is smoking as it leads to the constriction of blood vessels through the build-up of plaque in your arteries and even causes your blood to thicken, which can put you at a high risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Leading a sedentary lifestyle or not being active for at least 30 minutes a day, can also put you at a higher risk of heart-related ailments.

What signs and symptoms should you watch out for?

A few common signs and symptoms that you should not overlook are 

  • Breathlessness,
  • Chest pain, 
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Pain around the chest and upper back while performing an activity 

These signs and symptoms are important and should be overlooked even if you’re in your 20s or 30s. 

How can you prevent it? 

Some of the things you can do to prevent heart disease are

  • Exercise regularly and avoid being sedentary. It is advised to be active for at least 30 to 40 minutes a day, which should ideally include both cardiovascular and resistance exercises.
  • Keep a check on your weight as being overweight puts you at higher risk of heart disease. 
  • Eat healthily and avoid foods laden with fats. Choosing healthier food options can make a world of difference to your heart health.
  • Get enough sleep since that is the time your body performs all its repair functions. It also helps keep your heart healthy
  • Keep stress at bay. Being stressed can affect your health in several ways, therefore you must find ways to de-stress often.
  • Quit smoking since it is one of the most harmful habits for your heart health.
  • Get heart-related tests done regularly. It is always best to start getting regular heart-related tests done in your 30s if you have any risk factors for heart disease. In case you are not at high risk of the ailment, you should start getting regular heart-related tests done from the age of 40.

Finally, it is essential to understand that although there is no conclusive age to experience a heart attack, your lifestyle, diet, stress levels and activity levels can influence your probability.

(The author is Principal Director and Chief of Cath Labs (Pan Max), Cardiac Sciences, Max Hospital Saket, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)

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First published on: 12-10-2022 at 10:30 IST