South Asian population, including Indians, account for a high risk of heart ailment even in the younger age groups. In fact, according to a Stanford University study, South Asian people have a 40% higher mortality rate due to heart attacks than people from the rest of the world.
But of late, it has been observed that the age group that is the worst hit is the 25 – 40 bracket. The age group who is often indulged in unhealthy lifestyles and habits like smoking, alcohol and remain ignorant of the fact that they too are at risk of developing some serious illnesses. Appearing healthy from the outside does not assure perfect health.
The time has come to become aware of the possibility of grave heart disorders and learn of ways to avert them. No matter how young you are, it is not too early to start taking care of your heart.
Why are young people having heart attacks?
Typically people think that the risk of heart ailments rises when a man reaches his 50s and a woman crosses the age of 65. But these days, heart illnesses or other disorders that lead to heart problems such as hypertension or high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are being noticed in people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
Why are the youth today more vulnerable to heart attacks than the previous generations?
The primary reason is the prevalent sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet. Modern lifestyle ups the risk of heart attacks among the youth.
Stress and anxiety
The lives of the youth today are riddled with stress. Stress levels are higher today than ever before. With workplace toxicity, unrealistic expectations, financial insecurity in a volatile job market, distressing news and social media abuse being rampant, the youth today do not have healthy ways of dealing with stress.
Chronic stress is dangerous for the body. It causes unhealthy weight gain and high blood pressure. Undiagnosed hypertension damages the arteries and lowers blood supply to the heart. In the absence of enough blood, the heart muscles start degrading and eventually, this causes a heart attack.
Unhealthy dietary habits
Another answer to the question of why do young people have heart attacks, lies in the foods that the youth today eat. To deal with stress and also because the youth barely has the time or energy to cook healthy meals, unhealthy eating is on a rise. Frequent cravings are satiated with sweets, desserts and oily fried foods. Reliance on take-out foods has increased. All these foods are harmful to the heart.
Trans fats found in deep-fried foods, white bread, cookies, cakes or pastries raise the level of LDL (bad cholesterol). LDL builds up along the inner lining of blood vessels of the heart. This creates an obstruction that narrows the passage and limits how much blood reaches the heart. This may eventually trigger a heart attack or cardiac arrest. Youth these days indulge in extreme diets, take a variety of health supplements on their own which can be harmful. Any diet plan or health supplements should not be taken without discussing with a doctor or registered dietician.
Obesity and diabetes
Unhealthy eating causes obesity and is one of the primary risk factors of diabetes. Studies have found that the obesity rate in India is increasing more rapidly than the global average and India already ranks 3rd in the obesity index.
The incident rate of obesity is quite high in the youth and obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Both obesity and diabetes are considered risk factors for heart diseases.
Too little or too much exercise is another reason why young people are having heart attacks.
Cardiovascular exercises such as jogging, brisk walking, swimming, dancing, skipping rope (any exercise that makes your heart rate go up) ward off obesity and keep LDL and triglyceride levels in check and thus protect the heart. Exercises also increase blood supply to the heart. But unfortunately, many youngsters are reluctant to exercise because they think they don’t have enough time after work.
On the other end of the spectrum are youngsters who exercise too much in a bid to fit the media-established idea of the ‘perfect body’. If there is a pre-existing heart condition that has not been diagnosed yet, then excessive exercise can damage the heart further and bring on a heart attack. Unregulated weight training can thicken the heart muscles and unprescribed supplements can trigger arrhythmia.
According to doctors, some people in their 20s start developing heart blockages because of genetics or bad cholesterol. In such a state, if the person puts his/her body through an extreme workout, the exertion can trigger the formation of blood clots near the blockages which can result in a heart attack.
Lack of physical activity, prolonged sitting hours in front of a laptop or TV, excessive screen time, poor sleep habits, improper eating schedule together affect a person’s health. Working in these areas can offer great health benefits and this applies to people of all age groups.
Will a healthy lifestyle reduce heart attack possibilities?
All healthcare experts will tell you that you can substantially lower the risks of cardiac problems by following a healthy lifestyle. A perfectly healthy-looking person may also have an underlying illness that can be diagnosed by routine health checkups. Follow these tips:
- Exercise moderately at least 5 times a week.
- Get routine health checkups. Early diagnosis and timely management of diseases can save you from serious consequences.
- Eat healthily. Focus on fresh vegetables, whole grains, fresh dairy products, eggs, fish, soy products, nuts, seeds, lentils and lean meat like a chicken. Avoid red meat, refined wheat flour, white bread, pasta, sugary beverages, desserts, deep-fried foods, etc. You can consume these unhealthy foods once in a blue moon but remember to exercise afterwards.
- Quit smoking and alcohol right away.
- Monitor your blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels at regular intervals.
- Find out your ideal BMI. Use this formula – BMI = kg/m2 (kg is your weight and m is your height in meters). The healthy BMI is between 18.5 – 24.9. If your BMI is higher, it’s time to lose a few kilos and maintain your body weight in a healthy range.
- Learn to manage stress. Identify an activity that helps to calm your mind and spend more time doing it. Breathing exercises and yoga help to lower stress levels. Talk to loved ones, bring a pet home and go on nature walks. Identify activities that increase stress and avoid them. Instead of browsing through social media before going to bed, consider reading for half an hour to relax the mind and the body.
If needed, consider seeking the help of a therapist. It is nothing to be ashamed of.
Start taking better care of your heart health from today. No matter how young you are, your health deserves special attention and love. Live healthy to prevent not just heart attacks but many other illnesses as well. And if there is a prevalence of heart disorders or diabetes within the family, get yourself tested at least once a year. Prevention is always better than cure, stay aware and keep up good health.
Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.