CVD on a RISE in Young Indians

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) have been a concern for centuries, but recent times have witnessed a shift in their pattern, with younger populations increasingly affected. In India, CVD remains the leading cause of mortality, impacting individuals in their most productive years and posing a significant social and economic burden on the nation.

This transition to a younger demographic is largely attributed to the increased prevalence of CVDs and related risk factors in the country.

Key factors

India, despite having less than 20% of the world's population, accounts for approximately 60% of the global burden of heart disease. Moreover, Indians experience heart disease at a younger age, with 50% of heart attacks occurring in men below the age of 50 and 25% occurring before their 40th birthday. Indian women also suffer from high mortality rates related to cardiac disease. CVDs, including ischemic heart disease and stroke, contribute to over 80% of the burden, resulting in one in four deaths in the country.

Several factors contribute to this inclination towards CVDs in Indians. One factor is a genetic predisposition to cardiomyopathy and metabolic deregulation. Additionally, modifiable risk factors such as increased consumption of junk food, red meats, saturated fats, high stress levels, and sedentary lifestyles have become more prevalent.

Various reasons can explain heart attacks among young Indians. Lifestyle choices, including diet plans, exercise routines, and stress management, greatly influence the occurrence of heart attacks. Young people often neglect prior heart check-ups before engaging in physical activities, like weight training, which can increase the thickness of the heart. Some individuals may take supplements that could potentially harm the heart and lead to arrhythmias. In their twenties, genetic factors and increased cholesterol levels may contribute to the development of minor blockages. However, under acutely stressful situations, such as severe infection or significant physical exertion without proper preparation, the strain on the heart can cause clot formation near existing blockages, leading to heart attacks.

Genetics also play a role in cardiovascular diseases. While a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing chronic illnesses and curb CVDs, a significant number of genetically predisposed young Indians are susceptible to these complications. Genetic transmission of cardiovascular diseases often occurs through the father's side and affects the younger population earlier than their parents in previous generations. While prevention may not be possible in these cases, risk factors can be mitigated.

Stress is another significant factor associated with cardiovascular diseases. Chronic high levels of stress can contribute to conditions like high blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and hypertension—all common risk factors for heart disease. Stress can also lead to unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, further straining the heart and increasing the risk of cardiac arrest, heart attack, or arrhythmia. Moreover, chronic stress can contribute to inflammation and exacerbate conditions such as cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and depression.

Preventive measures

Prevention is crucial in combating cardiovascular diseases. Regular cardiac check-ups are important, especially for individuals with a history of cardiac ailments. Lifestyle changes, including reducing sugar intake, adopting an active lifestyle, controlling fat consumption, monitoring lipids, and quitting smoking and excessive drinking, can significantly reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. A well-balanced, heart-healthy diet and positive lifestyle changes contribute to reducing the occurrence of heart disease. Additionally, early screening for routine risk factors and increasing awareness among younger individuals can promote lifestyle changes that slow down or prevent the development of atherosclerosis.

By adopting healthy habits, undergoing regular check-ups, and raising awareness, individuals can take control of their heart health and potentially prevent the onset of cardiovascular diseases.