India worst affected; physical inactivity, stress, Covid effects major causes

By Syyed Mansoor Agha

Last week (October 19) a video captured on CCTV in Ghaziabad, showed a gym trainer Aadil (33), collapsing backward in his chair during a workout. The young man died on the spot. Another video viral on social media showed a Ramlila artist dressed as Hanuman, collapsing as his artificial tail was torched and he died at the stage in District Mainpuri (UP). In Anand (Gujarat), a young man of 21 also died of cardiac arrest while dancing at a Garba. Recently several heart attack deaths of young and middle-aged persons were in circulation on social media. A search on Google found disturbing trends in sudden cardiac deaths at a young age. It is being related to the Covid pandemic, too.

SITUATION IN INDIA

The situation in India is deeply distressing. A report published by Indian Heart Association (IHA) said, “India accounts for almost 60% of the overall burden of heart disease despite having less than 20% of the world’s population.” However, the increase in heart failure deaths is worldwide. The American Heart Journal reported a rise of 13% in sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) among people in their mid-30s to mid-40s. The data collected by IHA reveals that 25% of all heart attacks in Indian men occur under the age of 40. It doubles to 50% till people reach the age of 50 years. It means people between 40 and 50 years of age are most vulnerable.

THE CAUSES

Many medical scientists indicate complications due to Covid-19 infection as a reason. The infection has adversely affected heart mussels and valves. Other reasons cited by cardiologists include the absence of enough physical activities, obesity, co-morbidities like diabetes and acidity, alcoholic addiction, excessive smoking, and stress among others. Some indicate irregular sleep habits also.

TAKE CARE

General advice for people of all ages, especially youngsters, is to avoid a luxurious lifestyle, long hours at the desk without breaks, in between work consuming unhealthy junk food, fried dishes, etc. Physicians bet on a healthy lifestyle. Some physicians suggest a short break after every 2 or 2 and a half hours of work on the table: leave your desk and walk a few steps and do some stretching exercises.

It is old age advice to finish dinner early, have a walk before going to sleep; have no drinks, and ensure that you sleep well. To have a sound sleep, keep your mobile, etc. away from bed. A research centre Emetabolic says, “Try to avoid the elevator and escalator whenever possible. Prefer stair climbing. Do not use a vehicle but walk on foot for short distances. It will definitely help you improve your overall health and wellness.” This includes the health of the heart also. Care if your doctor has advised otherwise. 

AVOID HARD EXERCISE

Prior to Covid-19, physiotherapists used to advise brisk walking or even jogging for good health. Post-Covid-19, doctors are cautious about hard exercises. Dr. Balbir Singh, Chairman of Cardiology, at Max Healthcare says, “By going to gyms we are protecting ourselves from heart risks. Post-covid we would tell patients not to run or jog since they remained sitting at home for months. During hard exercise, some people, (with damaged heart mussels) can drop dead due to arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat), and many athletes are prone to heart attacks.” 

PANDEMIC EFFECT

The Queen Mary University, London conducted a study on the status of heart and heart-related ailments after the Covid-19 pandemic. A shocking rise in heart-related ailments was recorded in the persons who were hospitalised for Covid-19 treatment. Data shows ‘118 times rise in the number of deaths, with a 27.6 times rise in incidents of blood clots, 21.6 times rise in cases of heart failure, 17.5 times the cases of stroke and a 10 times rise in cases of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).’

The study also shows that risk factors for those had also increased worrisomely who did not require hospitalisation or even did not notice Covid infection. In such people risk of blood clotting has increased by 2.7 times and the death risk by 10 times.

A study at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles shows that Covid-19 infection has upset all data of past decades, as the incidents of death from a heart attack during the pandemic period sharply rose.

The most significant increase was noticed in the age group of 25-44 years. Dr. Yee Hui Yeo, a Physician-scientist at the centre and author of a study book noted: “The dramatic rise in heart attacks during the pandemic has reversed what was a prior decade-long steady improvement in cardiac deaths.”

He wrote, “We are still learning the many ways by which COVID-19 affects the body, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or race.”

Other studies also support the findings that SARS-CoV-2 infections increased the risk of other serious conditions such as stroke, nerve damage, and some autoimmune diseases.

RISK FACTORS IN YOUNG PEOPLE

Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) may occur in any individual at any age. It is associated with “Acute Cardiac Malfunction” (ACM), generally preceded by fainting. If not attended immediately, this may cause death within an hour. Experts also associate this condition with stressful life. A report suggests that nowadays young people like working professionals are under peer stress to accomplish more and more. Such a stressful life causes hormonal changes in the body which damages heart cells. This damage can trigger ACM and SCD.

An eminent cardiologist, Dr. M.S. Sandhu warned: “Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs without any indication, bringing the heart to a complete halt. It happens due to erratic heartbeats.”

A human heart beats at around 60-100 beats per minute and any variation in this rate, either too slow or too fast may be fatal.

Dr. Sandhu warned, “People feeling a sudden increase in heart rate or those who are genetically predisposed to heart diseases can experience fatal up and down in heartbeat.”

A person can notice this condition easily and should be alert.

Dr. Sandhu also warned, “The stressful situation can undergo significant exertion. This exertion can also leave an impact on the heart causing clots to form which may lead to a heart attack.”

But it is not much difficult to calm the stressfulness in your life. Just change your aim to make this life, which is of short duration, more and more comfortable by amassing wealth and luxurious items without caring for your health. Discipline your life with regularity, decorate your thought process with a spread of spirituality, and aim comforts of the hereafter. Otherwise, man is in a loss. 

THE SYMPTOMS

Though Sudden Cardiac Arrest may befall without any noticeable pre-condition and may cause sudden death, however medical professionals indicate some symptoms which warn us of imminent danger. As Dr. Balbir Singh pointed out, the early warning may include, a “feeling of uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness and pain in the centre of the chest, lasting for more than a few minutes or intermittently erupting. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach, shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort, cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness, clouded vision, and a loss of balance. For females, symptoms of breathing difficulties are more than chest pain.”

Some young patients, according to Dr. Gandotra, “also complain of bloating, acidity, gas, dizziness, and breathlessness”. Need not say that adjusting your lifestyle from sluggish to active, from worldly to eternally, and taking care of your health, the great gift of Allah, by avoiding stressfulness. And if any of the symptoms is noticed, do not brush them aside, but take some time to care for yourself and consult a cardiologist.

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