In January this year, cricketer and BCCI president Saurav Ganguly, who’s in his late 40s, suffered a minor heart attack. He was diagnosed with three blocked arteries and had to undergo stent implants. A little before that, in December last year, filmmaker–choreographer Remo D’Souza suffered a heart attack at 46.
While both of them survived the attacks, what’s interesting to note is that none of them (including Sidharth Shukla or Janoor Aneja), were obese or unfit. On the contrary, they were apparently active and healthy.
In recent years, doctors have seen an increasing number of younger age patients suffering cardio-vascular diseases (CVD). Some medical experts voiced their views about the phenomenon.
South Asians’ genetic constitution: a major cause for heart ailments
“Genotype and phenotype (genetic and physical constitution): It is a well-established fact in medical literature that the population in the Indian subcontinent develops cardiac issues at least a decade before its western counterparts. Indians are also more prone to triple vessel disease or blockages in all the three main coronary vessels above the heart. The diameter of the vessels is also smaller in South Asians compared to that in the Western populace. A heart attack or myocardial infarction happens when the clot in the cholesterol-rich area of the blood vessel ruptures. Diabetes is a major risk factor for cardio-vascular diseases; India is the diabetic capital of the world.
“History: Indians have endured centuries of famine as a result of which the body got tuned to surviving with limited food. So now, even the usual amount of food becomes too much and often causes overweight or obesity issues.
“Dietary habits: Majority of Indians opt for a predominantly carbohydrate-based diet in every meal, be it rice, roti or idli. Carbs can be even more dangerous than fatty food. It enhances the lipoprotein LDL Lp(a) and causes abdominal obesity and insulin resistance, which is a again risk factor for diabetes. Refined sugar is another culprit that’s as bad as smoking, and Indians love their tea and coffee with lots of sugar and milk.
“Stress, sedentary life and pollution: These are common risk factors. During the initial phase of lockdown it was observed that acute heart attack cases had come down due to people’s limited exposure to outdoor pollution and because they ate homemade food. Not exercising or physical inactivity and mental stress also enhance the chances of developing a heart attack.”
— Dr Rajeev Menon, clinical director and head of the cardiology department, AIG Hospitals, Hyderabad
Unchecked familial high cholesterol (LDL): a CVD risk
“Usually, 20% of heart attack patients these days are in their 30s and 40s. 90% of this age group has a smoking history. In most cases of healthy youngsters with cardiac issues, a family history of heart attacks or genetic propensity to develop the ailment exists. Also, unchecked familial high cholesterol or more bad cholesterol (LDL) in blood could aggravate the issue. Unlike abroad, where lipid profile test is done at 21 years of age, here it’s skipped, thus hampering early detection and intervention. High stress also causes clot formation, obstructing blood supply to the heart.”
— Dr GSR Murthy, consultant cardiologist, Care Hospital
Faulty workout habits: cause for heart ailments among youth
“The desire to get six- or eight-pack abs gets many youngsters to overexert themselves while working out, which is in contrast with the Ayurveda principle of ‘ardhvala’, that is, using ideally half of one’s strength.
“Work pressure causes inconsistent gym/workout timings, and people start working out at night, disturbing the homeostasis (the steady internal physical and chemical conditions maintained for a body’s optimal functioning).
“Thirdly, excess intake of artificial protein drinks and steroids for building up muscles, unhealthy food habits and irregular timing, all directly or indirectly affect the cardiovascular system.
“Additionally, people keep watching TV or mobile phones while exercising, something that also adds to the stress. Overindulgence with cell phones hampers one’s undisturbed seven hours night sleep thereby disturbing the biological clock and rest to the muscles.
— Dr Partap Chauhan, director, Jiva Ayurveda
Recommended diet and de-stressing therapies to maintain a healthy heart
In one litre of water, boil one teaspoon each of cumin (jeera) seeds, coriander (dhaniya) powder, fennel (saunf) seeds and fresh ginger. Let it boil for a few minutes. Take it into a flask and drink twice or thrice a day.
Try to incorporate herbs — amla, tulsi, triphala, haldi, ashwagandha in their diet.
Opt for dietary approaches to stop hypertension or DASH. For instance, eat a colourful Mediterranean diet, full of vegetables and fresh fruits, and eat millets and jowar roti. Such diets reduce the risk of high cholesterol level.
Incorporate anti-anxiety, de-stressing methods such as yoga, Surya Namaskar, meditation, deep breathing (pranayama), panchakarma treatment or deep tissue cleansing, aromatherapy, laughter therapy, positive reading and an hour’s brisk walks.
Foods to avoid
· Stop taking refined sugar or sugar in any form. Avoid brown sugar and artificial sweeteners as they may cause metabolic issues.
· Quit smoking
· Avoid too much jaggery and date syrup
· Avoid bakery foods laden with artificial colours and chemicals, sweets, refined flour
· Avoid red meat, ghee, butter, egg yolk, trans fat or saturated fat and deep-fried food
Early BP, lipid profile and blood sugar tests
“Often heart ailments in younger people can be without symptoms. Since diabetes and high BP are major risk factors for CVDs, get a blood test for diabetes and check your blood pressure. Do this after the age of 30, once every 3–5 years if every parameter is normal. If not, start taking prescribed medication and treatment and get check-ups done every 6 months,” advises Dr Rajeev Menon, clinical director and head of the cardiology department, AIG Hospitals, Hyderabad.
Dr GSR Murthy, consultant cardiologist of Care Hospital emphasises never to ignore any symptoms, no matter how mild. “Don’t ignore chest discomfort, pain, heaviness or breathlessness while exercising or after physical activities. Get an ECG done. If the problem persists and isn’t detected in ECG, go for a treadmill test, which can confirm a possible block in the blood vessel,” he says. “Also, a lipid profile test must be done when a person’s around 25 years old. It can detect the presence of high cholesterol, which gets accumulated in the blood vessels and causes blockages. If the cholesterol is high, it can be modified by proper diet or drugs or both, thus preventing lipid deposition or vascular disease can be prevented.”