Young, Stressed & Under Attack
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12 May 2010
By Sumitra Deb Roy
Amit Neogi’s marriage was just four days away. Probably why everyone around chose to brush aside his complaint of an intolerable chest pain, attributing it to his anxiety for the big day. After all at 23, few would have suspected Neogi to have a heart problem. But he insisted on a checkup and the results stunned his family. His main front artery had a 99% blockage. He immediately underwent an angioplasty, two weeks back.
Heart problems at his age do not surprise many cardiologists in Mumbai any more. Many say they treat at least one case in the age–group of 25–35 in a week. For instance Holy Family Hospital in Bandra had seven cases in the last eight days of cardiac arrest patients below 40 years, three of them below 32. One of them, Anjeet Kumar, 30, suffered a cardiac arrest at Dadar station and is recuperating. Dr Brian Pinto, the cardiologist who treated Anjeet, attributed the attack to stress as he was free of conventional risk–factors like smoking, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc. “Not only younger men but also younger women are coming with heart problems,” he said.
But the absence of conventional risk factors in these patients is making cardiologists anxious. When 27–year–old gym enthusiast Ganesh Gaikwad came to Kokilaben hospital in Andheri with a chest pain, he least suspected a heart problem. He was non–diabetic, a non–smoker, non–drinker and exercised regularly. He still had a complete arterial block, said interventional cardiologist Dr Sudhir Pillai, who treated him.
The most potent reason according to some cardiologists, is that youngsters develop small clots in the arteries. “The clots tend to get ruptured due to strenuous activity, and get exposed to the free flowing blood in the body,” said Dr A V Ganesh Kumar, head of interventional cardiology, LH Hiranandani hospital. The sudden mixing of foreign bodies in the blood explains why youngsters get heart attacks out of nowhere, he explained.
Pillai cautions when someone young gets a heart attack, it is more potent, like Stanley Rego (29), currently recuperating at MGM Hospital in Vashi, who suddenly collapsed with chest pain. Interventional cardiologist from Lilavati hospital Dr Vijay Bang feels family history has to be used effectively. Many youngsters have a genetic predisposition for developing heart problems and families where elders have heart issues should be on their toes, he added.
Cardiologists feel a change in diagnosis protocols is necessary. Treadmill or stress tests may not be adequate to pick small clots, said Kumar, adding coronary angiography tests pick up even 10% blockages.
Pinto says exercising and proper diet ward off attacks. “A healthy lifestyle can prevent this cardiac epidemic where we are seeing patients at least 10–15 years before they should see a cardiologist,” he added.