‘Lockdown, Dope, Sloth’: What Causes Heart Attacks in Young Kashmiris?

Dr. U Kaul

AS a scribe among some other young Kashmiris became new casualties of cardiac arrests, the sudden spike has once again set alarm bells ringing in the valley.

These fresh fatalities came when winter is already knocking at door.

“Winter roughly doubles the heart attack rates in the valley,” Dr. Upendra Kaul, Kashmir’s top cardiologist, told Kashmir Observer.

“Regular exercise and intake of plenty of fruits and vegetables are very cost-effective solutions.”

The heart specialist blames substance intake, like heroin and other cruder agents, for the unexplained deaths labeled as heart attacks in young Kashmiris.

“While postmortem should become a must for young patients dying suddenly of an alleged heart attack, frequent lockdowns for political reasons or lately Covid-19 have also contributed to it,” Dr. Kaul said.

An excerpt from the Kashmir Observer interview with Dr. Kaul, edited for length and clarity, follows.

What’re the reasons for sudden cardiac deaths in Kashmir?

Reasons seem to be diverse, including changed lifestyle leading to lack of exercise, fast foods, migration of population to cities and bigger towns, pollution and stress at work and at home.

All this leads to high blood pressure, more diabetes and higher cholesterol levels in blood. These’re major risk factors for heart attacks. One of the presentations of a heart attack is sudden death.

There has been a spurt in heart attacks among young people as well. What can be the possible reasons?

It has to do with the increased incidence of hypertension and diabetes in the age-group of 30-35 years. Coupled with sedentary lifestyle, it can take a fatal turn.

Frequent lockdowns for political reasons or lately Covid-19 have also contributed to it.

Substance intakes among young also lead to heart attacks as well as unexplained deaths labelled as cardiac arrests due to the attached stigma.

Cocaine is a perfect recipe to get a heart attack. De-addiction centres for preventing this menace are very much needed.

Kashmir is witnessing more heart attacks during winters? Any specific reason?

Winter roughly doubles the heart attack rates in the valley. The reasons are partly due to circadian rhythm change. Days becoming very short and increased cortisol level in blood shoots up blood pressure.

Also, reduced physical activities, tendency to eat more fatty food and reduced intake of fruits and vegetables are some of the reasons behind it. Smokers increase their smoking which is an important cause.

Gloomy weather and indoor confinement leads to depression and anxiety. Inactivity leads to deranged sugar levels in diabetics, and overeating to high bad cholesterol levels.

All these risk factors combine and increase the chances of a heart attack.

Has Covid anything to do with the surge of the sudden cardiac arrests in the valley?

Covid during its infective phase certainly can lead to cardiac events.

The virus produces generalized inflammation including that of heart muscle and also of the arteries. The Covid pneumonia can also spread the inflammation from lungs to heart. All this can lead to heart failure and even classical heart attacks.

Avoiding visiting hospitals to seek treatment of chest pain due to fear of getting Covid infection was seen as an important cause of getting severe delays in seeking urgent treatment. This led to high mortality of heart attacks during the pandemic.

Do you think the government should constitute a team to study increased cases of heart attacks in Kashmir?

Certainly!

In fact, postmortem should become a must for young patients dying suddenly of an alleged heart attack.

Public education of primary and secondary prevention should be imparted and a budget kept for these activities.

Encouraging voluntary organizations like Gauri Kaul Foundation to expand and get facilities in different districts to augment healthcare systems is one of the important ways.

What should people do to keep their heart healthy during winter?

Winter season predisposes to heart related disorders. But regular exercise is the best and the most cost-effective way to keep these disorders at bay and keep your heart healthy.

A health-checkup for the 50-plus populace is a good way to assess the risk by evaluating all the major risk factors and timely action to be taken.

People with existing high BP, diabetes and previous heart disease should also get themselves reevaluated, as they often need alteration of doses of medicines to attain the targets.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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