Year ender 2023: Cardiac arrests trend in young adults, future warning signs | Health

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The year 2023 was another year for young adults and people in their thirties and forties to be concerned about their heart health as Bollywood diva and former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen dropped the news of getting a heart attack at the age of 47 in February 2023 while well-known Telugu actor and dramatist Harikanth, unexpectedly passed away at 33 due to a cardiac arrest on July 1, 2023 and Lapataganj actor Arvind Kumar too succumbed to a heart attack while he was on his way to the shoot on July 11, 2023. Earlier, famous television actor, Sidharth Shukla lost his life at the age of 40 after suffering a heart attack on September 2, 2021, South Indian actor Punneth Rajkumar passed away due to the same health issue at the age of 46 on October 29, 2021 and renowned South Indian actor Chiranjeevi Sarja succumbed to a cardiac arrest in Bengaluru at the age of 35 on June 7, 2020.

Year ender 2023: Causes behind increasing trend of cardiac arrests in young adults, warning signs to look out for (Photo by Twitter/Eqraaam)
Year ender 2023: Causes behind increasing trend of cardiac arrests in young adults, warning signs to look out for (Photo by Twitter/Eqraaam)

Famous comedian and actor, Sunil Grover survived a heart attack when he was just 45 and underwent four bypass surgeries while ace dance choreographer, Remo D’Souza was also 45 years old when he had a heart attack and underwent an angioplasty despite having no such underlying issue. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr P Ashok Kumar, Advanced Heart failure Management and Transplant Cardiologist at SPARSH Hospital, shared, “Heart problems causing early deaths in young adults can happen due to various reasons. The most common being coronary artery disease, where one of the heart’s blood vessels gets blocked. This can start at a young age and worsen over time. A condition called atherosclerosis makes this happen, and it’s progressing faster these days, affecting people at a much younger age. One major cause is the blockage of heart arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or coronary artery disease.”

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He added, “Other factors can also lead to early deaths. Some may be due to genetics or issues with the heart’s rhythm. Sometimes, the heart’s rhythm becomes very fast, resulting in a cardiac arrest. Certain heart defects from birth can cause a heart attack too. There might also be problems with the heart muscle, where it becomes abnormally thick. This condition is called cardiomyopathy and often goes unnoticed. Some people engage in intense physical activities and get into trouble during those times, and this is also linked to cardiomyopathy. So, in summary, congenital heart disease, genetic heart issues, rhythm problems, and coronary artery disease (heart attack) are the main causes of premature death.”

According to Dr Nithin Prakash, Clinical Cardiologist at Altius Hospital, it is vital to recognise that heart issues don’t just affect older adults as there are several reasons young adults may face heart problems. He said, “Some individuals might inherit heart conditions due to their family history. For example, familial hypercholesterolemia can lead to high cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease. Poor lifestyle choices, like not getting enough exercise, eating lots of processed and fatty foods, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and substance abuse, can also contribute to heart problems. Obesity is a significant risk factor for heart disease.”

He explained, “Being overweight can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and abnormal lipid profiles, all of which increase the risk of heart problems. Lack of physical activity and not exercising regularly can also lead to heart issues. It is important for young adults to be aware of these risk factors and adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, a balanced diet, managing stress, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol. Regular check-ups and screenings can also help identify and address heart problems at an earlier stage.”

Why is there an increase trend in these incidents?

Dr P Ashok Kumar answered, “Indians are at a higher risk of developing coronary artery disease compared to Westerners, and it affects us about a decade earlier. This is because our arteries are slightly smaller, and we have additional risk factors like smoking, tobacco use, poor eating habits, fast and canned foods, high stress, excessive alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise. All these factors contribute to the existing problem of blocked arteries. Additionally, a significant number of people have a family history of premature heart disease, which also increases the risk. So, we need to look at premature sudden cardiac deaths in our family history as well.”

As per Dr Nithin Prakash, the increasing prevalence of heart problems among young adults results from a mix of lifestyle and environmental factors –

  • Modern diets filled with fast food, highly processed items, and sugary drinks have contributed to higher rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and unhealthy lipid profiles among young adults.
  • Many young people spend a substantial part of their day sitting, whether at work, for leisure, or screen time. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to weight gain, a decline in cardiovascular fitness, and a greater risk of heart problems.
  • Tobacco use, along with drug and alcohol misuse, remains a concern among young adults and is strongly associated with heart issues.
  • The demands and pressures of contemporary life, especially in high-stress settings, can lead to chronic stress, which can negatively impact heart health through unhealthy coping mechanisms and direct physiological effects on the cardiovascular system.

He said, “Addressing these trends requires public health initiatives, education, and policy changes that promote healthy lifestyles, improve access to healthcare, and raise awareness about risk factors. Encouraging regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques can help reduce the risk of heart problems among young adults. Additionally, healthcare providers should screen for cardiovascular risk factors and provide guidance on preventive measures during routine check-ups.”

Warning signs

Dr P Ashok Kumar revealed, “Cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops, and the person loses consciousness and falls. It often occurs without any warning signs, but there can be some symptoms like chest discomfort, which are sometimes mistaken for digestive problems. People may think it’s just a stomach issue, and this is a common misconception at a young age and they tend to ignore these signs. However, if you ever feel something unusual and different from your normal sensations, it’s crucial to seek medical help.”

He pointed out, “It might not always be a heart issue; it could be related to your stomach, but any suspicion of chest pain, heartburn, throat pain, or left-hand pain should not be ignored. It is a delicate balance. People often rush to the clinic unnecessarily, causing unnecessary panic. It’s important to make informed decisions. We can prevent such incidents by managing stress better, quitting smoking and tobacco products, limiting alcohol, maintaining regular exercise, and considering family history during medical check-ups. Most importantly, making a conscious effort to live a healthy lifestyle is essential.”

Dr Nithin Prakash asserted that recognising warning signs and acting promptly can be the key to saving a life. A person facing a cardiac arrest may suddenly become unresponsive and not respond to any attempts to rouse them. He advised –

  • It is crucial to check for the absence of normal breathing or a pulse. Gasping or irregular breathing can be signs of a cardiac arrest.
  • Some young adults may experience chest pain or discomfort before or during a cardiac arrest episode.
  • Sudden fainting or collapsing without a clear cause can be a warning sign.
  • Those with underlying heart conditions may experience irregular heart rhythms or palpitations before a cardiac arrest.
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded, especially when combined with other symptoms, might signal an impending cardiac arrest.
  • Sudden, severe shortness of breath, especially without an apparent cause, is a concerning warning sign.
  • Nausea or vomiting may also occur as a symptom before a cardiac arrest.
  • Extreme and unexplained fatigue, especially when combined with other symptoms, should raise concern.
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