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Young Hearts in Danger, Lifestyle Changes Necessary

Men and women as young as 19-years-old are falling prey to heart ailments. Their stress filled lifestyle is the culprit, say doctors

Acute mental stress is one of the primary reasons for heart problems in youngsters

Be it heart attacks or clogging of arteries, what is surprising is the emergence of a new profile of people between 25 - 35 years with heart conditions, typically seen in an older age group. Dr C N Manjunath, Director of Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology, says, “Youngsters in India are more vulnerable to heart problems as compared to youngsters from other countries including the US. And this holds true even for Indians who live abroad. In our hospital alone, out of the 1500 cases that were admitted last year, 25 per cent were below 40. Our youngest patient last year was a 19-year-old. And it is happening in this age group across economic backgrounds, be it a techie or a coolie or a garment factory worker. Acute mental stress is one of the predominant reasons.”


Harish Iyer was pretty much “all okay”. He had recently been diagnosed with diabetes, but led a “normal life”. He recalls, “I used to play cricket over weekends and noticed that I felt unusually tired. Since I was diagnosed with diabetes a few months back, my doctor suggested some tests beginning with basic cardiogram and treadmill tests. Many tests later, including an angiogram, I was diagnosed with TVD or Triple Vessel Disease.” In September 2009, Harish had a bypass surgery. He was 30-years-old and had four blocks in his arteries with one of them being 99 per cent blocked!

Similarly, Jacob (name changed), who works in a leading IT company started smoking (two to three packs) to find relief from an extremely stressful job. Combined with irregular meal-timings, a potent scenario ensued resulting in a massive heart attack at the age of 31 years.

For Prasad Shenoy, a commodity trader, it was a gentler warning. In 2005, at the age of 31, when he was at work, he started sweating and experienced chest pain. “The minute I went to the hospital, they did an ECG and rushed me to the OT. At that time, my son was just one-yearold and my wife was expecting our second child. I had told her that I was going for a checkup, that’s all. By the time she came to the hospital, angioplasty procedure was almost done. One of the arteries was 100 per cent blocked,” recounts Prasad.


For Harish it was erratic food habits and timings, eating whatever was convenient (read as loaded with calories) and lack of exercise were largely responsible for the weakening of his heart. “Sleep was also an issue,” he says, “and I worked till late night and then carried work home.” The overwhelming feeling of tiredness was a sign that things were not well. As with Prasad, “The doctors could not really pinpoint any reason. I love fried food, had only butter naan or roti, did not exercise much. Plus, my job was extremely stressful. Probably, everything just added up together.”

Dr Sanjay Mehrotra, Senior Cardiologist at Narayana Hrudayalaya, tells of the warning signs.

» Chest pain/chest discomfort
» Difficulty in breathing
» Heaviness in the chest
» Feeling of suffocation in the chest
» Sometimes, the impending sense of something is seriously wrong.

For those people who have preexisting heart diseases or blockages in the heart then the same symptoms as described above will appear with a little exertion or the usual exertion like climbing more than 2-3 flight of stairs, running a short distance or riding a bicycle.

Are you predisposed to a heart attack? Yes, if you:

» are a smoker — (still the most important cause of heart attack in young people)
» have diabetes
» have high blood pressure
» strong family history
» do you have high cholesterol
» are obese/have a high fat diet/have a sedentary lifestyle

Then any of these factors can put you in the high risk bracket.


Harish says, “I am very watchful of what I consume.” He also goes for a walk regularly. “That brought in some discipline and got my blood sugar under control. I have joined a gym — never knew it could be so much fun! I ensure that I do not get too stressed with work. So life is definitely better.”

Harish neatly summarises, “Trust me, it is not the surgery that hurts. You are anyway unconscious during surgery. It is the post surgery recuperation that has taught me a few lessons, the major one is to respect my heart. No one realises its importance, unless some jolt like this occurs.”


YOU SHOULD reach the hospital as soon as possible to save yourself from damage or death due to a heart attack.

The Golden hour: The patient should rush to the hospital within one hour of the onset of chest pain/discomfort.

The Golden Period: Upto six hours from the onset of chest pain when a simple injection (thrombolytic therapy) can save your life.

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