Heart Attacks in Young 

Image credits: Brianna Gilmartin

By Dr Arif Maghribi Khan 

“IT is never too young to start caring for your heart”. So, to make it easy for all to understand, I shall begin by talking about the key risk factors.

Key risk factors of having a heart attack at a young age include:

  1. Substance abuse or  alcohol use
  2. Smoking
  3. High blood pressure—uncontrolled – It is quite common to check blood pressure of children in Europe from 10 years onwards in schools, then colleges and places of work. No student of any class will be able to join the new class before producing a medical certificate in which blood pressure levels are mentioned along with diabetes and lipid profile. Same holds true for employees. Let’s do whatever we can that is under our control. This can be replicated easily in Kashmir with the help of government hospitals and NGOs.
  4. High cholesterol levels
  5. Lack of physical activity
  6. Diabetes
  7. Childhood Obesity (must never be overlooked)
  8. Stress which is not treated.

If you have any of the above disorders, do not fret or think you will die. But do listen to your cardiologist or endocrinologist. However, steer clear of Google searches or local chemist’s suggestions on whether to take medicine or not, they’re often off the mark and say, “Ma khey Dawa, aadat gassi” /”do not take medicine as you get addicted to it”.  I have seen even highly educated people refusing to take life saving medicines.

One in three children in Kashmir is either overweight or obese, a study [2017]  by SK Institute of Medical Sciences titled ‘Prevalence of obesity and over weight in school children in Kashmir’, has revealed. The study that measured weight of over 9000 school children (between 5-15 years of age) across Kashmir’s schools has stated that  34.5% boys and 38.4% girls were overweight and obese. If our children are not healthy, how can they become healthy adults?

It would be a ridiculous and a wrong statement to make if I were to say that all heart attacks are caused by overdose of drugs in Kashmir. However, we need to know about menace of drug abuse in Kashmir. A  study conducted by Srinagar based Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (IMHANS) in a Drug De-addiction centre in Srinagar, found that over two-third of patients in the study had started substance abuse in the age group of 11-20 years. The most common substances of abuse identified included nicotine (94.4%), medicinal opioids (65.7%), cannabis (63.6%), benzodiazepines (45.5%), other prescription medications (43.4%), alcohol (32.5%), inhalants (11.1%), and cocaine (7.5%).  The study revealed that poly-substance abuse was found in 91.9% of the studied patients. Inhalant use was seen predominantly among adolescents (54.5%) whereas nicotine (50.2%) , cannabis (49.2%), alcohol (51.1%), opioids (58.4%), and benzodiazepines (53.48%) were more predominant in the age group of 21 to 30 years.

Heroin blocks your body from getting pain messages and slows your heartbeat and breathing. If you overdose, you may stop breathing and die. Data tabled in Rajya Sabha shows that the problem of drug abuse is such that India sees 10 suicides related to drug abuse– and only one of them is from Punjab.

Dr JPS Sawhney, chairman, Department of Cardiology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital has said, Heart attacks take the maximum toll of human life all over the world. Heart disease is reportedly killing approximately 17 million people in the world, and a similar scene is seen in our country, where 3 million people die because of CVDs (cardio-vascular diseases), which include heart attack and stroke. About 14 lakh people are affected in the urban area and 16 lakh in the rural area.

On an average, Indians get a heart attack 8-10 years earlier than other ethnic groups. The most unfortunate fact is that 40 percent of people in our country who get heart attacks are under the age of 55. It has been observed that 50 per cent of the heart patients have their first episode or first presentation as heart attack and 50 per cent will get a warning signal of chest pain (angina)  followed by a heart attack.

Now, doctors in India are seeing parents bringing their children, even as young as 16 with symptoms of cardiovascular diseases. A ‘First attack survey’ done in the State-run Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences found that 35% of the 2,200 patients registered with the first cardiac event in their lifetime were aged less than 35. A recent study by Harvard says “ In a study of 3,564 men, the Framingham Heart Study evaluated the cardiac impact of six major risk factors: high total cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking. A man who is free of all six has a remarkably low 5% risk of developing cardiovascular disease by age 95. In contrast, the risk for a man with two or more risk factors is 69%. In addition, a risk-free man can expect to enjoy 11 more years of life than a man with two or more risk factors.

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