Is Heart Disease More Prevalent in Young People?

By Dr. Ripen Gupta in Cardiac Sciences

May 10 , 2022 | 2 min read

Mr. Raju, a 24-year-old gentleman, complained of severe chest pain and was taken to a general physician, thought to have acidity, and given medications, but had no relief. An ECG was done, which showed ST elevation in precordial leads, indicating a massive heart attack. He was rushed to our hospital, where an angiography was done immediately, and it revealed a 100% block in the LAD artery for which he required stenting. He made an uneventful recovery.

The question which arises in our mind is whether heart disease is becoming more prevalent in the younger generation and the reasons behind it. There is ample evidence which suggests an increase in heart disease in Indians and especially the younger population. There are many factors which are responsible, which could be genetic or lifestyle-related.

Let's first come to genetic factors; Indians as a race are more prone to heart disease and especially at a younger age. This has been proven by studies done on Indians settled abroad and comparing them with the local population. It has been seen that Indians had onset of heart disease 1-2 decades earlier than their European and American counterparts and have more chances of having multiple heart blocks. In addition, a family history of heart disease can put you at a higher risk, and this risk is inherited both from the maternal and paternal sides. Unfortunately, we can do very little to mitigate these risks.

Lifestyle changes with rapid urbanization are one of the key factors for heart disease in young. A sedentary lifestyle, bad food habits, smoking, and stress all contribute to this. Regular physical activity prevents diabetes, and lowers blood pressure, stress, and bad cholesterol in the blood; this all lowers the risk for heart disease. Due to the fast pace of life and increased work travel time, exercise time gets truncated, and this puts a person at risk. We advise a minimum of 45 min brisk walk or equivalent exercise every day.

With the rapid spread of online food delivery platforms, junk food is available 24 hours a day, which will lead to an epidemic of heart disease in the young. We advocate a balanced diet with moderate fat intake. A thumb rule is to limit fat/oil to 750ml/ month, salt intake 5-6gm/day, alcohol intake to 120ml/week, and no added sugar in the diet. Nuclear families, changing social norms, and working related stress all have increased the stress levels in our younger population.

We do not have a concept of psychological counselling for stress in India, as this role was traditionally taken up by the elders in the family when we were living as a joint family. We need to balance our aspirations, do regular physical activity and do meditation or Yoga to control stress.

If we do regular physical activity, eat a balanced diet, and control stress in our life, we can prevent the onset of heart disease at a younger age.

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