Heart attacks are no longer an ageing disease. As per the Indian Heart Association (IHA), 25% of all heart attacks in Indian men occur under the age of 40. The reported rise in heart attacks, cardiac arrests and other heart ailments is happening at a time when more millennials and Gen Zs, are becoming health conscious. This contradiction on deeper investigation brings out the fact that looking fit and feeling fit on the outside is not a testament or synonymous to being fit. Hence, it becomes all the more necessary to understand and address the risk factors leading to the rise in CVDs and more so of heart attacks among the young adults.
What is a heart attack?
A myocardial infarction (commonly called a heart attack), is an extremely dangerous condition caused by a lack of blood flow to our heart muscle. There is chest discomfort, shortness of breath, hypertension and it requires immediate medical attention. Various factors can lead to blockage of the arteries, which might eventually obstruct the flow of blood to & from the heart.
According to the IHA, heart disease is the number one cause of mortality and a silent epidemic among Indians, claiming nearly three million lives every year. There are many risk factors, modifiable and non-modifiable that predisposes one to heart diseases.
Non-modifiable risk factors:
n Genetic predisposition: Research reveals that we Indians have a higher predisposition to heart disease and develop the ailment about 10 years before our global counterparts.
n Family history: Having a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension, increases the risk of CVDs.
Modifiable risk factors:
- Sedentary Lifestyle: Spending long hours sitting at desks, watching screens, and not engaging in regular physical activity, has been linked to obesity and increase in heart disease. As per the WHO, 75% adolescents and nearly 40% adults do not do enough physical activity everyday. It is advised to exercise 30min everyday along with being intermittently active to overcome long periods of inactivity.
- Unhealthy Diets: Poor dietary habits, including high consumption of processed foods, sugary beverages and fast food, can lead to obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. We Indians consume high amount of trans fats (from processed foods) which causes an increase in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and decreases in HDL (good cholesterol), all of which can lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease. A healthy balanced diet which provides all required nutrients in optimal amounts and is low in sugar, salt and unhealthy fats can help reduce heart diseases.
- Smoking and alcohol consumption: Smoking leads to constriction of blood vessels through the build-up of plaque in the arteries and even causes our blood to thicken, which can put you at a high risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
- Stress: Chronic stress can increase inflammation and raise blood pressure and lower HDL cholesterol. It can also promote unhealthy behaviors like overeating, smoking, irregular sleep pattern and inactivity.
- Diabetes: The increasing rates of type 2 diabetes among young Indians are linked to obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, and diabetes can significantly raise the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
- Lack of awareness: Being unaware about the prevailing condition, access to optimal care and the reluctance or delay in seeking adequate medical attention can lead to late diagnosis and be fatal. Seeking preventive and timely care to manage heart disease can save lives.
- Extensive workout: High-intensity exercises, extensive physical activities and sports are a contributing factor for sudden cardiac arrest or heart attack. It is advisable to undergo a complete cardiac examination before beginning a high-intensity gym program.
Keep this in mind – “With a healthy heart, the beat goes on”.
Five most essential steps to reduce the risk of heart attacks:
- Having a balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- Managing stress with yoga, meditation and good sleep
- Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
- Getting regular health check-ups done
Dr. Meghana Pasi, Nutrition Consultant, MyThali, Arogya World