World Heart Day: Young India’s weak hearts and how we can protect them

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It’s World Heart Day today and the focus on healthy hearts in these unpredictable and stressful times is of prime importance.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that 17.9 million people die each year due to cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) globally, highlighting just how vulnerable the world’s population is today.

In India, the number of heart patients has been rising over the years and data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has revealed that in 2021, 28,449 people succumbed to a heart attack.

In fact, several noted celebrities such as actor Siddharth Shukla and singer KK and comedian Raju Srivastav died young owing to heart diseases, showing that India continues to struggle with heart diseases and how the youth of our nation is crippled by this infliction.

What are cardiovascular diseases?

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels, including coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral arterial disease, rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.

Coronary heart disease prevalence rates in India have ranged from 1.6 per cent to 7.4 per cent in rural populations and from one per cent to 13.2 per cent in urban populations.

According to the WHO, India accounts for at least one-fifth of the 17.9 million cardiovascular disease-related deaths globally, especially in the younger generation.

NCRB data reveals that of the 28,449 heart attack deaths in India in 2021, 19,744 were in the age group of 30-60. Dr Nikhil Parchure, cardiologist at the Apollo Hospital in Navi Mumbai, reiterated this fact when he told news agency PTI that 25 per cent of all heart attack cases are being seen in people below the age of 40 in the last few years.

Graphic: Pranay Bhardwaj

Causes of unhealthy hearts

Unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, high pollution levels and fast-paced social obligations have led to a rise in cardiovascular diseases among the youth of our nation.

Fifty per cent of all heart attacks in Indian men occur under 50 years of age and 25 per cent of all heart attacks in Indian men occur under 40 years of age. Indian women have high mortality rates from cardiac disease as well.

Dr Amit Kumar Singhal, a Senior Consultant, Cardiology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Jaipur, in a Firstpost report outlined the main reasons why the hearts of young Indians are vulnerable.

He said that stress in people’s personal and professional lives was one of the biggest reasons for heart diseases.

He also said that owing to such a lifestyle, the general population’s food habits have changed, leading to increased salt consumption. He emphasised that these reasons lead to hypertension among younger people, who are then more likely to develop coronary diseases.

He added that unhealthy food items and junk food drive up cholesterol levels, which also lead to heart issues.

A study by the US-based Mayo clinic also stated that over-exercising may also be bad for the heart. The use of dietary supplements — increases calcium and vitamin D levels — which is also linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Doctors also believe that diabetes could also be a leading cause for heart diseases among young people. India is said to have the most diabetic patients as compared to other countries. It is estimated that India had 77 million diabetic patients in 2019. This number is expected to rise to over 134 million by 2045, with 57 per cent of these diabetic cases going undiagnosed.

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Prevention

Heart diseases are preventable and changes in lifestyle, dietary habits, and an increase in physical activities could reduce its prevalence.

Dr T Kler, Chairman, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram and Fortis Hospital, New Delhi, was quoted as saying, “Heart disease is among the top killers in the country, but the good news is that many of the heart-related complications are curable, and their treatment is available in the country. I recommend people to do regular exercise, get good sleep, destress themselves, and eat in moderation for a healthy heart and disease-free life.”

Dr Harinder K Bali, Chairman, Cardiac Sciences, Paras Hospitals, Panchkula in an Indian Express report also urged young adults to get their cardiac evaluation done every year to prevent such life-threatening situations.

Heart attack deaths that rocked India

The recent demises of celebrities owing to heart ailments has put the spotlight on the issues.

Noted comedian Raju Srivastava passed away on 21 September at the age of 58 after he was hospitalised for suffering a cardiac arrest. Srivastava was hospitalised on 10 August after he collapsed while working out in a gym.

Singer KK, known for his melodic voice, collapsed during a live performance on stage in Kolkata back in June and was rushed to the hospital where he breathed his last. He was 53.

Siddhartha Shukla, who rose to fame for his role in Balika Vadhu and his Bigg Boss appearance, passed away on 2 September last year owing to a heart attack.

On 29 October, India went into mourning when Kannada superstar Puneeth Rajkumar passed away at the age of 46 owing to a heart attack.

With inputs from agencies

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