Believe heart attacks are just for old people? It is time to think again!

With the latest news of young celebrity deaths due to heart attacks, India has realized the looming risk of heart diseases among youngsters.
causes of breathlessness
Here’s why youngsters are more at risk of heart attacks recently. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Manish Hinduja Updated: 23 Oct 2023, 13:54 pm IST
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Many young people, including celebrities like Siddharth Shukla, Puneeth Rajkumar and Inder Kumar, succumbed to heart attacks. This worrying trend is difficult to ignore because heart attacks were primarily a problem faced by the older generation a few years ago. It was a disease that rarely affected anyone less than 40 years – now, one in five patients suffering from heart attacks is below 40!

Adding to the above fact – suffering from a heart attack in your 20s or early 30s is more common than ever before. Between the years 2000-2016, the heart attack rate increased by 2 percent every year in the young age group. This also does not mean that suffering from a heart attack at a young age will have faster improvement outcomes. If you are in your 20s or 30s and have suffered a heart attack, the chances of you dying from a second major heart attack or stroke is high, which is why this is a concerning fact.

We look at some risk factors that put individuals at risk of heart attacks, irrespective of their age:

1. Diabetes is a critical factor for early heart attack

If a family member has diabetes, they are 2-4 times more likely to die from heart disease than people who don’t have diabetes. This is especially dangerous when the blood sugar is not controlled and kept within a healthy range. Since high blood sugar damages the blood vessels, and increases the chances of fats building up in the person’s arteries, the risk of Atherosclerosis and heart attacks also increase significantly. In addition, people with diabetes also suffer from chronic health conditions like hypertension and cholesterol, which can also lead to coronary issues, including heart attacks. All these chronic conditions are increasing dramatically in young people, which is another grave cause of concern.

Diabetes and hypertension can lead to a heart attack! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Obesity can increase your chances of heart attack

Being overweight has a significant impact on the risk of a person developing a heart attack at a later stage of their life. This is because for starters, carrying extra weight places a high demand on the human heart. Even if you are otherwise healthy, obesity alone can make a person more likely to have a heart attack. In most obese members of the family, conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol already exist, which can prove fatal and dangerous.

3. Smoking cigarettes and vaping

This is a no-brainer – smoking cigarettes can cause heart disease. Chemicals in cigarette smoke cause the cells that line blood vessels to become swollen and inflamed, narrowing the blood vessels, and leading to many cardiovascular conditions. In fact, if a family member is addicted to smoking one pack a day, it doubles their risk of heart attack than non-smokers. While vaping might have fewer risks than cigarette smoking, they are still quite harmful. E-cigarettes contain Nicotine and other toxic compounds that accelerate your heart rate and raise blood pressure. A recent study has found that vaping made you 34 percent more likely to have a heart attack when compared to non-vapers.

E-cigarettes are equally harmful for your heart. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

All the above pointers indicate that heart attack is preventable, especially if you make the required lifestyle changes.

Here are a few tips to help you keep your heart healthy and family fit, especially if you have a family history of heart ailments:

1. Refrain from smoking or using tobacco

As mentioned above, Nicotine and tobacco are harmful to your overall health, and it is best to avoid smoking for long and healthy life. The good news is that the damage is repaired quickly  if the addicted member of family stops smoking early. Even long-time smokers can see rapid health improvements when they quit smoking.

2. Be physically active every day

Regular exercise is the key to living a good and healthy life. This is because being active helps people control their weight while reducing the chances of chronic conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Even shorter bouts of activity offer heart benefits, so don’t give up and include your family in activities like gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog daily.

no equipment exercises
Tone your body and avoid the risk of heart attack with the help of exercise. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Eat a heart-healthy diet

A good and healthy diet can protect the heart and improve chronic conditions in the body. A heart-healthy eating plan includes vegetables and fruits, beans or other legumes, lean meats, fish, low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, whole grains, and healthy fats, such as olive oil. While adding these items to your daily family meals, make sure you reduce the intake of salt, sugar, and processed carbohydrates for better results

4. Get good quality sleep

People who do not get good quality sleep automatically have a higher risk of suffering from obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, and depression. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it by going to bed and waking up at the exact times each day. If you or anyone in your family feels like they’ve been getting enough sleep, but they are still tired throughout the day, consult a specialist at the earliest.

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5. Manage stress

Many people cope with stress by overeating, drinking, or smoking. This can prove very dangerous, so make sure you reach out to mental therapy to help you deal with such issues. While we understand that stress is a regular feature of life, you need to introduce healthy coping mechanism that can include meditation, yoga, and digital detox. Don’t forget to make it a family activity as it will allow you to spend some time with them and strengthen bond.

6. Get regular health screenings

Visiting a doctor at regular intervals is a good idea, especially if you are in the risk category (have a family history of heart disease or are suffering from chronic conditions). Screenings for chronic conditions can help you stay healthy and prevent any existing condition from escalating or becoming fatal

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Consultant-Cardio Thoracic & Vascular Surgery, Fortis Hospital, Mulund ...Read More

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