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    Cardiovascular diseases take root when young, may strike at any age

    Published on February 21, 2014

    New Delhi : A deep pain in the left arm that stretches right up to the jaw; heaviness in the chest and a cold sweat engulfing your body! These symptoms indicating that you might be having a heart attack can strike anybody at Dr Vanita Arora, Associate Director & Head, Cardiac Electrophysiology Lab and Arrhythmia Services, Max Hospital (3)any time. But if you are young, presumably healthy and apparently fit, you are likely to ignore these symptoms as something else. After all, it is our very profound belief that heart attacks happen only to the old, the obese, and the unhealthy.

    The average age at which a heart attack strikes is 65, but this does not mean that it cannot happen to somebody who is 38. 38-year-old Raghav (name changed) realized it the hard way. Sitting comfortably on his work chair at home late at night,

    Raghav, felt a sudden intense pain in his shoulder. Refusing to believe that it might have had something to do with his heart, Raghav attributed it to a recurring spondylitis pain that had been troubling it for some time, until his wife forced her way and called an ambulance.

    Raghav’s spinal nerves were just fine. It was his heart. The blood supply to his heart had stopped, damaging a muscle inside the organ. Even after the diagnosis was done and treatment begun, Raghav couldn’t believe that a man, as fighting fit as him and relatively young, could have a heart attack.

    “This is a very common belief in our society that if you are young and slim and without a baggage of health problems, heart attack will not happen to you. But it is not true. Though not very common, heart attacks are a reality even in patients as young as 30,” says Dr Vanita Arora, Senior Consultant Cardiac Electrophysiologist & Interventional Cardiologist with Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket. She is also Associate Director & Head, Cardiac Electrophysiology Lab and Arrhythmia Services.

    “A heart attack is a result of an interrupted blood supply that may be because of a narrowing artery or a blood clot. Whatever is the reason, nobody knows what exactly is going on inside his or her body and should be very serious in case symptoms creep up, be it at any age,” she adds.

    The risks, are however, widely underappreciated especially in young adults, both men and women.

    A heavy amalgamation of traditional risk factors can cause heart attacks to occur early. A combination that includes a family history of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, smoking, high-blood pressure and cholesterol, indicates that such a person needs to be closely monitored.

    The average age for a first heart attack still remains well above 60, which is why coronary artery disease is labeled a disease of senior citizens. Yet, up to 5 per cent of all heart attacks are occurring in people younger than 45.

    “A combination of several factors including smoking, drinking, a high stress life, weird lifestyles that mess up with eating and sleeping habits, and absence of physical exercise in our lives is raising up the burden of cardiovascular diseases,” says Dr Arora.

    Moreover, narrowing of the artery or atherosclerosis does not happen overnight. It does start in the youth. It is hence a reminder that prevention should also start early in life before problems develop.

    Atherosclerosis is a condition where the arteries become narrowed and hardened due to an excessive build up of plaque around the artery wall. The disease disrupts the flow of blood around the body, posing serious cardiovascular complications.

    Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is the most important cause of early heart attacks, but there are other factors too including inborn abnormalities of the coronary artery and blood clots that develop elsewhere in the body and are carried to the heart through the blood stream.

    It is hence extremely important to come out of the denial that ‘a heart attack cannot happen to me’. It is equally important to start preventive measures at a young age. Making physical exercise a part of your daily life, keeping your diet under check, monitoring your blood pressure and getting a preventive check up done once in a while. All these steps can help you prevent certain cardiovascular diseases.