In India currently we are experiencing a new pandemic. A pandemic of heart disease in the young. As a population we are genetically predisposed to heart disease at a younger age compared to the western population.
Compared to Caucasians Indians are at a 5-10 fold higher risk of heart disease. And compared to other Asian ethnicities like the Japanese we are 30-40 fold at higher risk. Also heart disease appears to hit Indians a decade or two earlier when compared to the western societies.
What are the reasons for this?
- Undoubtedly, one key component is genetics. Unfortunately, this risk factor cannot be altered. It is beyond our control. There are also modifiable risk factors which together contribute to the issue that needs to be seriously dealt with –
- Diabetes and Hypertension are becoming increasingly prevalent in both urban as well as rural populations especially among the youth. Uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension predispose individuals to a high risk of heart disease and stroke. So it’s important to detect these early and treat effectively. Here in lies the importance of health checks at the school level and as part of pre- employment screening.
- We have to address the issues of obesity in the young. This is an important contributor to diabetes and hypertension. Obesity including childhood obesity is multi factorial. Lack of exercise shifting from conventional outdoor recreation to online gaming social media engagements are leading to obesity.
- Changing food habits with the young veering away from traditional home foods that are healthy and wholesome to processed out sourced foods which are sometimes junk foods are hugely contributing to obesity and ill health.
- We are also witnessing an increasing incidence of lifestyle addictions like smoking and alcoholism. These together with diabetes and hypertension sedentary lifestyle and obesity work like a deadly cocktail greatly upping the risk of heart attacks in the young.
- Finally one cannot wish away the effects of stress due to professional and lifestyle demands. Stress of performance coupled with sleep deficits further augment the risk of heart disease in the young.
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So what advice can we offer to the young?
- We need them to focus in all the modifiable risk factors. Lead healthier life styles. Pay attention to what they eat and how much they exercise.
- A diet which is predominantly plant based low in calories and low in saturated fats and refined carbs is healthy from a heart point of view.
- Every individual should log in at least 30 min of moderately intensive physical exercise for at least 5 days a week. More is even better.
- Excessive gymming without supervision and training relying on supplements for muscle building can be harmful as witnessed in recent events of sudden cardiac arrest during strenuous exercise in otherwise healthy middle aged men.
- Preventive health checks help uncover latent diseases in milder stages and help control them better before they cause a damage. One such test is blood sugar and blood cholesterol estimations. Also getting checked up for hypertension is also very useful.
Lastly, a word about Covid and heart disease. We have observed an uptick in the incidence of heart disease in the young after they have recovered from Covid. This is especially so in those with risk factors for heart disease. Though we do not have robust scientific data to explain a causal role for Covid in these instances, it’s advisable for covid survivors to undergo extensive heart check especially if they have other risk factors.
(The author is Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist & Electrophysiologist Certified TAVR Operator Clinical Director. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)