Coronary artery disease or coronary heart disease (commonly referred to with symptoms of angina or heart attack) is usually a disease of the elderly however it is increasingly seen in younger age groups in the last few years. Although there is no universal definition of when this disease occurs in an individual less than 45 years of age then called CAD in a young population.
Overall heart diseases (coronary artery diseases) occur earlier in Indians and as per the Indian Heart Association, 50% of all heart attacks in the Indian population occur less than 50 years of age and 25% of all heart attacks in the Indian population occur less than 40 years of age. Young Indians (South Asians) are more prone to heart attacks as compared to the western population by 8-10 years earlier.
The basic function of the heart is to pump the blood in the body through a network of blood vessels called arteries. When the blood supply to heart muscles itself is affected because of deposition of cholesterol, fat molecules, calcium into walls of coronary arteries, then heart muscles are deprived of oxygen and angina or heart attack occur.
Apart from traditional risk factors like males, Diabetes, Hypertension, Dyslipidemia, Lack of exercise, two important factors seen in routine practice are Smoking and mental stress in young heart attack patients. A family history of coronary heart disease at an early age also predisposes a person to a heart attack at a younger age. Probably our changing lifestyle, peer pressure, job and financial stress are contributing to more hypertension and heart disease at a young age.
Symptoms are the same as in other age groups like chest pain, breathlessness, profuse sweating, fatigue, dizziness or sometimes dyspepsia, vomiting however they are variable depending on Diabetes and awareness.
The problem in the treatment of younger heart patients is less acceptance of disease in younger people and lack of early detection of signs and symptoms as early signs are often ignored by young people.
If you feel any of the symptoms suggestive of heart disease, immediately consult your doctor as there are better modes of diagnosis and early treatment is available. If someone has a major heart attack then by immediately opening the artery through angioplasty or by giving some injections in time, almost all heart muscles damaged can be reversed. The problem happens in late detection and late treatment where despite the best treatment some part of heart muscles (or heart function) reduces.
These are more lifestyle diseases where a lot of preventive steps can be taken and a lot of lives can be saved in the younger age group.
- Diet: A low-fat, high-fibre, heart-healthy diet is recommended which include reduced salt, increased unsaturated fats, reduced sugar, loads of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds and fish oils.
- Physical activity: Ideally recommended 30 minutes of light to moderate activity at least 5 days a week or vigorous activity for at least 20 minutes or 5 days a week. It keeps the heart healthy, control sugar and Blood pressure and prevents, if not there. Exercise is a good way to reduce stress.
- Smoking: There is no safe limit on smoking so it has to be absolutely stopped.
- Alcohol consumption: While moderate alcohol consumption is believed to be healthy for the heart, excessive alcohol consumption is a strict no-no. Binge drinking especially is shown to precipitate abnormal heart rhythm or even heart attacks.
- Weight management: make sure to keep weight under control by following diet and exercise. It is important to be physically active even if someone is mildly obese.
If you are having co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, make sure to continue medications and other measures as advised by the doctor as this is primary prevention from heart diseases.
If you had heart disease, it is emphasised again to take all medication and precautions as advised by Doctor to avoid further deterioration or recurrent episodes of heart disease which come under secondary prevention.
Having heart disease at a younger age leads to the loss of productive years of life. Awareness, Timely diagnosis and if required then treatment can stop or reverse this bad disease. Now we have a lot of data for patients who had heart disease at a relatively younger age in their thirties or forties and timely treatment made them well surviving and having a normal quality of life till the seventies or more.
So be active, aware and heart-healthy and consult your doctor when required.