Young India needs lessons in heart health

Between 2005 and 2015, India is projected to cumulatively lose USD 236.6 billion (approx. Rs. 13 lakh crore) because of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, chipping 1% off the GDP (according to an ASSOCHAM and Deloitte supported paper in 2011)

By Dr. Anil Bansal
Chief of Cardiovascular Services
Columbia Asia Hospital - Palam Vihar, Gurgaon
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With 50% of the population below the age of 25, India is a young country and is likely to get younger by 2020 when the average age of an Indian is expected to be 29 years (Kaushik Basu’s India’s Demographic Dividend). But if we consider the rising rate of cardiovascular diseases among young people, the country may also be the abode of a large population of ailing youth – which is a dreadful prospect.

In 2010, WHO estimated that of all projected worldwide deaths, 23 million were expected to be because of cardiovascular diseases. In fact, cardiovascular diseases are the single largest cause of death in the world accounting for more than a third of all deaths.

Researches have also indicated that Indians have a genetic predisposition towards heart disease. Add to it the dietary habits, sedentary lifestyles, stress and substance abuse, and the problem gets graver.

While it is difficult to change one’s set of genes that render some more susceptible to the risk of heart disease, changing one’s lifestyle is something that is under our control.

Cardiovascular diseases are expected to be the fastest growing chronic illnesses between 2005 and 2015, growing at 9.2% annually and accounting for the second largest number of non-communicable disease after mental illnesses, according to an ASSOCHAM and Deloitte supported paper at 2011 International Heart Protection Summit.

But the more perturbing fact is that the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases have gone up significantly among the people between the age group of 25 and 69 years to 24.8%, according to the same paper. Hence, our country is losing the most productive people to these diseases.

Long work hours, hectic lifestyles and excessive stress are contributing to cardiovascular diseases at younger age.  Dearth of time for exercising and relieving stress, coupled with intake of fast food and binge eating has made the lifestyle of today’s young working population a factor for obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, which eventually leads to heart diseases. In addition, if one smokes, the risk for cardiovascular diseases rises exponentially.

Specifically, smoking and drinking among youth have added to the cardiovascular risk factors. The highly addictive and toxic substance, nicotine present in tobacco, increases heart rate, blood pressure and also affects the inner lining of the blood vessels causing endothelial dysfunction. This in turn increases the risk of coronary artery disease.

At the same time, excessive amount of alcohol is known to cause depression of the left ventricle of heart, which pumps blood into the body. As a result, heart has to pump harder and body’s cells and tissues don't get the supply needed for optimal functioning.

It is unfortunate that in spite of rise in education levels, very few people are aware about of these risk factors and even those who know hardly pay heed.

There is a need to educate people, especially the youth about risks factors for cardiovascular diseases. At the same time, emphasise on lifestyle modification and implementation of interventional strategies to prevent and reverse the disease burden. 

Remember; regardless of one’s age, a healthy life style that includes proper nutrition, sufficient sleep and adequate exercise is the key to a healthy heart 

Mind Your Meals

Avoid junk food and if you can’t resist the temptation then at least choose wisely and eat in moderation. Opt for healthy snacks over burgers and chips. Confectionery items that are free of Trans fat or vanaspati should be preferred. If you have a sweet tooth then try indulging yourself in low calorie desserts like fruit yoghurt and gelatos over ice creams and traditional Indian sweets made in ghee. Also, incorporate more greens (leafy veggies) and fresh fruits in your diet. Switch over to whole-grain flour from normal wheat flour or maida. Non-vegetarians should cut back on red meat such as pork and beef. Instead, eating oily fish such as Salmon and Mackerel (rich in Omega-3 fatty acids) at least twice a week is a much healthier option.   

Move Your Muscles

Exercising religiously for at least 3-5 days per week will benefit your heart tremendously. This is equally true for today’s youth who are prone to a sedentary lifestyle. If going to the gym is not possible, then at least one should take a regular walk for 30 minutes. The idea is to refrain from being a couch potato and ensure to do anything that raises the heartbeat above normal for at least 20 minutes 



Abstain from Substance Abuse

Smoking and drinking are considered ‘cool’ among the youth today but these are the biggest enemies of the heart. Tobacco smoke is hazardous to heart’s health. It has deadly chemicals in the form of particles and gases that are potential carcinogens. Alcohol is no better when it comes to damaging the heart. 

Let's adopt a healthy lifestyle to ensure that young India remains healthy at heart.

Tags: Heart health , Smoking , Diet , Obesity


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