An analysis of the patients below 40 years in the post-Covid period (2020-21) at the institute, one of the biggest cardiology centres in India, revealed that tobacco consumption or smoking was found to be a major reason for cardiac issues in 31% to 35% of the patients at the hospital.
Dr Chirag Doshi, director of UNMICRC, says other major reasons include hypertension and diabetes (15% to 18% each), family history (12%) and stress (7%). “The rest have multiple or overlapping causes. What we want to highlight is that lifestyle is a major factor, and one must recognize the impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the heart’s health,” he adds.
The experts at UNMICRC say ‘soft plaque’ poses a danger in patients below 40 years. In medical terminology, the atheromatous plaque is made up of cholesterol and fatty acid. In older patients, the ‘hard plaque’ also has calcium along with fibrosis – a condition in which tissues thicken.
“Thus, while gradual narrowing of arteries is a real concern for the patients above 50 years due to calcification, the ‘soft plaque’ made of fat is relatively mobile and can rupture at the time of strenuous activity, exertion, or stress. A part of the plaque can detach and form a block or a clot,” says a senior cardiologist at UNMICRC. “In such a scenario, it does not give the person much time – the heart feels the cutting off of blood supply and experiences irregular heart rhythm, identified as arrhythmia.” Experts advise steady physical activity, regular blood pressure checks, and a balanced diet to reduce chances of heart issues at a younger age.
Rashesh Pothiwala, a city-based cardiologist, said regular screening can ensure a person’s wellbeing. “Often, the signs are misdiagnosed as acidity or dental issues. Quicker screening after the onset of symptoms can save lives. Sometimes, even one electrocardiogram (ECG) may be normal. Thus, more than one ECG at a regular interval can ensure the right diagnosis,” he said.
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