Why more younger people are dying of heart attacks in India

Decoding the cardiac crisis key to understanding what is wrong with health of the youth

Published : 09 Mar 2023 08:10 PM

For long it has been considered an illness that afflicts the old. No longer so and the depreciating age is not just alarming but needs immediate attention away from the episodic panic that greets the news that another high profile young Indian has suffered a heart attack.

Beyond the celebrity glare a crisis is unfolding among the ordinary Indian.

24-year old Vishal collapsed after exercising in the gym and died. 18-year old Sachin, an engineering student, was walking to class when he buckled in the college corridor.

26-year old Abhijeet was practicing for a dance festival when he slumped to the floor, he was brought dead to the hospital. These are not isolated cases and what is equally disturbing is the ages of those who died.

Reports of incidents of sudden cardiac death and heart attack are not media sensationalism, there is something wrong with young Indians and their health.

That a heart attack impacts only those above the age of 50 is a myth, however recent and needs to be debunked urgently so that if there are signs, they are not dismissed in the confidence of youth.

For months now there has been speculation on whether long term cardiac issues could be a fallout of the pandemic.

Formal data is still elusive but voices from the medical fraternity are becoming louder over Covid residue in the form of heart inflammation or Myocarditis which causes clotting.

A report in the Times of India says some hospitals have witnessed a 10-15% increase in the rate of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in ostensibly healthy people but with a Covid history. Recent deaths include people in their 20s.

When it comes to cardiac health, Indians were on the back foot even before the pandemic. Experts have been cautioning that our vulnerability to a heart attack is a whole decade earlier than Western demographics.

The role of genetics

The role of genetics, obesity, cholesterol and diabetes are the usual suspects but it sounds almost unethical that a 20 or a 30-year old could be walking one moment and lifeless the next. The Covid-19 effect could be a deadly cocktail and we need answers.

Doctors say the lack of data is challenging with indicative indices only available from as far back as 2012 by ICMR. This is almost obsolete.

In the last 11 years, lifestyles have evolved and many a lifetime have been lived at a strenuous pace in the pursuit of the rainbow pot.

According to the World Health Organisation, India accounts for almost one-fifth of the 17.9 million cardiovascular disease-related deaths globally, especially in the younger generation.

The only way to decode this crisis is through 

detailed studies that are made public and 

immediate research needs to get to the 

bottom of whether the heart is heavy

 for those who suffered from Covid-19

If there is any truth in the post pandemic rumours, we have a medical emergency on our hands and need urgent intervention.

A big drawback is the lack of awareness when it comes to cardiac issues but doctors are insistent, what they are seeing in the young is no less than an epidemic. The perception has not just been that it afflicts the older generation but also that it targets men.

In reality, women are equally at risk. Their symptoms though have a larger chance of being dismissed as part of a sociocultural conditioning. 

In the last three decades there has been a 3% increase in cardiovascular diseases among Indian women while it simultaneously declined in global females.

Indian Heart association pegs a woman’s lifetime risk of dying from heart disease eight times greater than that of breast cancer. Doctors also warn that their protection blanket erodes as they close in on menopause while also dismissing that young women who are lean can afford to take it easy.

Can't afford to take it easy

Multiple factors then contribute to an Indian disposition but ignorance could be the difference between life and death.

Actor Sidharth Shukla was treated for acidity by his family when he complained of uneasiness instead of being immediately rushed to the hospital.

Incidents of a person collapsing in a gym or while dancing may outwardly seem instant but there is a timeline.

Pandemic blues made the exercise trail inviting as though we were trying to make up for lost time. But it may be wise to pay heed to the whispers, Long Covid is not just in name.

Underlying issues could also negate fitness as in the case of actor Sushmita Sen who suffers from an autoimmune disease. In the attempt to connect the dots it leads to a rather naive question, is India’s young population suffering more secondary infections compared to their predecessors?

Lifestyle, stress, diet - late off the block on processed food but catching up are all considered triggers but how is that different from global concerns? Perhaps the role of genetics, Vitamin-D deficiency and BMI is more than we give it credit for.

The only way to decode this crisis is through detailed studies that are made public and immediate research needs to get to the bottom of whether the heart is heavy for those who suffered from Covid-19.

In the absence of clarity, rumour mongering inevitably ends at Covid-19 vaccine scepticism. Medicine is advancing rapidly but to be able to take advantage of it, clarity and awareness are key.

Jyotsna Mohan is the author of the investigative book ‘Stoned, Shamed, Depressed’. She was 

also a journalist with 

NDTV for 15 years. 

Source: Gulf News