Until a decade or two ago, cardiac arrests were a danger faced only by older adults, and doctors advised heart health screenings only after the age of 50. In the recent years, Indians have grown into one of the most heart-unhealthy populations in the world.
Dr T Senthil Kumar, Chief Cardio Thoracic and Vascular Surgeon at Kauvery Heartcity in Trichy says that the numbers are increasing. 28% of deaths in India is as a result of heart disease. And Indians suffer heart attacks at least 20 years earlier on an average than those born in the West.
“Generally, Indians are much smaller built than the western population, they also have smaller hearts, and their coronary arteries are also significantly smaller. Added to this is a very high incidence of diabetes in Indians which leads to more widespread disease in the coronary arteries,” doctors say.
Tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease, with 26% of cardiovascular diseases among people in the 30-44 age group resulting from tobacco use. 16% of the total deaths due to cardiovascular disease each year are the result of smoking. Tobacco can affect the levels of different types of fats in the blood, increase the risk of clots, and damage or thicken and narrow blood vessels and cause build-up of plaque in them. “Diabetics are three times more prone to developing heart disease than the normal population,” doctors explain.
Stress as well as patterns of sleep, diet and exercise all contribute to heart disease. What we eat plays a major role in heart health, particularly the levels of sugar, salt, and different kinds of fats in our diet. Excessive sugar and saturated fats contribute to developing obesity and increase the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. Excessive salt consumption contributes to developing hypertension, which increases the workload on the heart and leads to damage and disease.
Finally, poor sleep patterns and stress worsen the situation, as they affect the body’s ability to control several biological processes such as blood pressure, glucose metabolism and hunger, among others. Lack of sleep, therefore, can lead to hypertension, diabetes and obesity, all of which increase the risk of heart disease. And lack of sleep or high levels of stress also pave the way for poor habits such as excessive smoking which further increase the risk of heart disease.