Some of the key high-risk factors responsible for an increased incidence of heart disease in young adults.
1. Uncontrolled Hypertension
Hypertension is sometimes called a silent killer. Lack of exercise, a diet rich in trans fats and salt, obesity, increased levels of stress, habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption are some of the main reasons for higher incidence of hypertension in young adults. If left untreated, hypertension may lead to serious problems like stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure and eye problems.
Worldwide research suggests that people with type 2 diabetes are more vulnerable to heart disease. High blood sugar over time can damage your blood vessels and nerves in the heart circulatory system. So, the longer you have diabetes, the higher the chances that you will develop heart disease.
3. High Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a very important biological molecule and is essential for our body. Excess cholesterol leads to vascular disease. Some blood vessels in your body, including heart arteries, have an affinity to cholesterol deposits. Excess of cholesterol deposit in these arteries can lead to a lack of flow of blood to the affected areas resulting in angina or myocardial infarction.
A person’s chance of heart disease increases with the number of cigarettes they smoke and the number of years they have smoked. If you have a pack of cigarettes a day, your risk of having a heart attack is four times higher than that of someone who doesn’t smoke. Women who take birth control pills and smoke cigarettes increase their risk of heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease greatly. When you smoke, the people around you are at risk for having health problems too. That’s especially true for children. We Indians need to be especially wary of smoking as genetically we have smaller arteries as compared to our western counterparts.
5. Family history
World Heart Federation states that if a first-degree male relative (e.g. father, brother) has suffered a heart attack before the age of 55, or if a first-degree female relative has suffered one before the age of 65, you are at greater risk of developing heart disease. If your parents have suffered from heart disease before the age of 55, your risk of developing heart disease can rise to 50% compared to the general population.
Obesity and overweight are linked to several factors that increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular diseases including coronary artery disease and stroke. As per World Heart Federation, an overweight person may develop hypertension, type-2 diabetes, and musculoskeletal disorder, putting them at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
Studies have shown that long-term stress causes a higher incidence of an unhealthy lifestyle. More people with long-term work-related stress end up having reduced exercise, unhealthy diet, smoking, and alcohol leading to obesity. This in turn increases the chances of having hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and high cholesterol.
8. Air pollution
Worldwide research suggests that environmental factors can alter your blood pressure. Air pollution is increasingly recognised to be a major risk factor for various cardiovascular disorders including heart attack, heart failure, stroke, arrhythmia, etc. The risk of a heart attack doubles according to studies with exposure to polluted air.
Preventive measures for a healthy heart:
1. Know your family history. It is advisable to know if your siblings, parents or grandparents had heart disease and how old they were when they developed these problems. If there is a strong family history of coronary artery disease, get yourself evaluated by a cardiologist even if you are young and keep a regular follow up evaluation.
2. Get your lipid profile, blood sugar levels and BP regularly checked. It is always advisable to go in for a complete health check-up at least once a year.
3. Be physically active and maintain a healthy weight. At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity every week is a must.
4. Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. Talk to your doctor about the medication or therapy that can help you quit smoking.
5. Consume a diet high in whole-grain fibre, lean proteins and colorful fruits and vegetables, legumes and pulses, low-fat dietary products, fish and poultry without skin. Avoid overconsumption of instant and packaged foods, junk food, aerated drinks, sugar, and salt.
6. Keep time for your family and friends. Try not to bring office work home. Spend quality time with your family and enjoy these moments. Take family holidays from time to time. Share your cause of stress with your trusted friends and spouse. Talk to a psychotherapist.
(Dr. Santosh Kumar Dora, senior cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai)
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