In the past, heart attacks were a concern for older people, but not anymore! Sadly, more people in their 30s and 40s are experiencing heart attacks.
You must have heard about young individuals, even celebrities with fit bodies, suffering from heart attacks. It brings up the question: What is the reason of heart attacks at young age in Indians today?
Today, we will understand the causes of heart attacks at a young age, explore the recent surge, and share some shocking statistics. We will also provide practical tips on how to prevent heart attack at young age because taking care of your health from a young age is crucial!
To understand the reason behind the increase in heart attacks, you should know how a heart attack happens.
A heart attack (Myocardial infarction) is when there is a reduction or blockage in blood flow to the heart muscles. It leads to insufficient oxygen supply to heart muscles, leading to tissue damage or death. The blockage occurs because of fat buildup (plaque) in the coronary arteries. (Arteries delivering blood to the heart muscles.)
Young people are having heart attacks because of early buildup of plaque in heart arteries. Plaque buildup occurs because of factors like unhealthy eating, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
Previously, these risk factors were present primarily in older people. But today, these diseases are increasing in the young. Many people in their 20s have prediabetes and hypertension because of stress and unhealthy lifestyles. People above the age of 30 have a higher percentage of individuals with diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, or a combination of these diseases.
All these heart problems cause a rise in heart attacks at a young age in India. Let us understand these risk factors better in the next section.
What causes heart attacks in young people is the increasing prevalence of risk factors that cause heart attacks. Let us understand these risk factors individually.
The number of people in their 20s and 30s with diabetes has increased. An inactive lifestyle and an unhealthy diet rich in carbohydrates and fats are the reasons behind this rise.
The presence of diabetes increases your chances of developing heart disease by 2-4 times. Diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels. These high blood sugar levels may damage your coronary arteries, increasing the chances of fat buildup. This fat buildup can block blood supply to your heart, leading to a heart attack.
Various risk factors like obesity, chronic stress, smoking, alcohol, and excess salt consumption cause high blood pressure. Another trend you will observe today is an increase in young individuals with high blood pressure.
High BP makes your heart work faster, thickens heart muscles, damages arteries, and may also damage other organs in the long run. Similarly, hypertension can damage your coronary arteries, leading to plaque buildup. Hence, it is a prime reason for heart attacks in the young.
In India, abdominal obesity is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Obesity raises the risk of heart attacks by causing hypertension, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and inflammation. The additional weight also puts pressure on the heart.
According to a 15-year study (2005 to 2020) of people between the ages of 19 and 49, obesity has increased from 12.6% to 24% in men and 9.3% to 22.9% in women. This increase in obesity has been directly proportional to the rise in heart attacks.
Obese and unhealthy young individuals can have a heart attack if they do intense exercises suddenly. It happens because of increased heart stress, potential plaque rupture, elevated blood pressure, and inflammation. This is the reason people had heart attacks in Navratri during the Garba performance!
The surge in coronary artery disease (CAD) in India, especially among the younger population, is sounding alarms. Asian Indians face a risk 3-4 times higher than Americans, 6 times higher than Chinese, and 20 times higher than Japanese counterparts.
Back in the '90s, CAD prevalence was 12-16% in Indian youth, with acute heart attacks at 25-40%. The latest stats from Kerala state indicate a 22.2% prevalence of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) in those under 50. We're in dire need of a nationwide study to unravel the current prevalence of CAD among young Indians.
Indians have double heart disease rates compared to Western nations. This high risk is because of genetic factors. These genetic factors may include a predisposition to metabolic imbalances and weakened heart muscles. Modifiable risk factors like poor dietary habits, alcohol consumption, stress, and a sedentary lifestyle also play a role.
Indian men are more susceptible to coronary heart disease at a younger age, often experiencing it before turning 40. Research shows the average age for the first heart attack is lower among Indians (53.0 years) compared to other countries (58.6 years).
Please read our article to know more about India's predisposition to heart attacks.
Avoiding a heart attack in young age is simple. It requires you to follow these heart-healthy habits:
Indians have a predisposition for heart attacks, and the unhealthy lifestyle of the young is making it worse.
Even individuals who look fit, like influencers, can have hidden risk factors like hypertension, stress, and genetic predisposition. Hence, to keep your heart healthy, it is vital that you have a holistic approach. Exercise regularly, eat right, manage stress, and get regular health checkups. It will help you prevent getting a heart attack in your youth as well as old age.