Dr. Jagdish Hiremath, a cardiologist who practices at Ruby Hall, Pune, said there was a rising trend in incidents of heart attacks in young patients these days. He estimates that in the last five years, the percentage of such patients who consult him has gone up from a mere five per cent to an alarming 30 per cent. Dr. Hiremath avers, “Most patients are brought to the hospital after a heart attack has already occurred. There is no prior warning as they do not fall in the category of patients who belong to the “High risk” group of those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels or a family history of heart attacks”.
Since the usual risk factors or symptoms are not seen in such patients, they are examined first of all for “Unusual” risk factors. Biochemical markers such as high homocystine levels and high LP (Lipo–Protien)(a) levels are checked through a blood examination. (The tests are extremely expensive in India as of now). These biochemical markers were zeroed in on by a well documented study (published in many reputed medical journals) conducted in the US comparing 2000 Asian Indians doctors and their ages matched by their white counterparts. It was found that there was a greater incidence of heart attacks in doctors of Indian origin in spite of having led a better lifestyle, which meant they exercised and prayed regularly, among other things. Many factors were compared, and finally, it was discovered that Asian Indians were more genetically predisposed to having heart attacks as they had higher homocystine levels and higher LP(a) levels.
Dr. Hiremath opines, “If Asian Indians have a genetic predisposition for heart attacks, it automatically implies that there factors have been prevalent for centuries. However, the question many people have been asking is, why is it that it is only now that we have been witnessing a trend of younger heart patients? Smoking, bad dietary habits, lack of exercise were always deemed to be causative factors, and they remain as risk factors. However, surely something else has changed to trigger off this phenomenon”.
Dr. Dattatreya M. Dhavale, a practicing psychiatrist, expressed the view that factors such as industrialization and urbanization have existed for the last 100 years or so, but changes associated with them have been “Cumulative” and “Progressive”. He added, it was a known fact that anyone today had to compete with thousands of others for seats in professional colleges or job placements in reputed firms. Although there has been an increase in the number of colleges and jobs per se, it has not kept pace with the rapid increase in population. This is also holds true in the case of jobs.
Besides, the breakdown of the joint family system, the housewife becoming a working woman with the additional burden of household chores are some factors that have led to an increased pace of life. These days, there is also the additional stress brought on by the need to become technologically savvy, no matter what the person’s age happens to be, to keep up with the changes taking place globally. Otherwise, the fear of being left behind could often result in a lot of stress and tension especially among the youth who are more career obsessed. “Most who are under stress go to their physicians with physical symptoms such as aches and pains. They do not realize that it is all stress related”, Dhavale pointed out.
But there is good news too. Any patient who is moved to a hospital within six hours of a heart attack, responds very well to treatment reveals Dr. Hiremath. The treatment is usually streptokinase which helps dissolve the blood clots due to which most heart attacks occur at that age. Once the clot dissolves the patient is said to have become symptom free. Factors like clogged arteries due to high cholesterol levels are not present in these patients. Some may suffer from febrile illnesses of some infection that affects the heart. Follow–up treatment includes aspirin and taking a high dose of vitamin supplements such as folic acids, anti–oxidants etc.
As in the case of Sanjeev Derserda, one has to implement a change in one’s lifestyle. He gave up smoking and drinking, both of which he used to indulge in. He cut down on his working long hours and partying till the wee hours of the morning. Even his food habits changed drastically.