Health

Fit doesn’t always mean healthy, say experts. Stress, ignoring warning signs causing heart issues in under-50s

Actor Sidharth Shukla’s sudden death at the age of 40, reportedly due to a sudden cardiac arrest, left many shocked. As per sources close to Sidharth’s family, the actor complained of chest pain around 3am on Thursday last week, but he went back to sleep. However, in the morning Sidharth did not get up. On Thursday, around 10.15am doctors at the Cooper hospital in Mumbai declared him dead. The actor’s death has drawn attention towards the rising number of cases of heart ailments among those in their 30s and 40s, even when they are seemingly fit. In July, filmmaker and Mandira Bedi’s husband Raj Kaushal passed away at the age of 49 after suffering a cardiac arrest and in April, actor Amit Mistry died of heart attack at the age of 47. Doctors say that “cases of heart attacks among younger age groups are increasing alarmingly”. “In my clinical practice, two out of 10 patients are in the 30-40 age bracket,” says Dr Brajesh Kunwar, Head-Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, Mumbai. Dr Tilak Suvarna, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, adds, “Even in young adults, it is the conventional heart disease risk factors that account for the majority of heart attacks. These conventional risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, family history, high cholesterol and smoking.” Medical experts share why most cases of heart ailments among young patients turn out to be fatal and what are the warning signs one should be aware of.

‘Get heart screened every six months after COVID recovery’

Even though there were no reports of Sidharth ever contracting COVID, the issue of unexpected collapsing has often come up in people who have recovered from the coronavirus. We ask experts for post COVID precautions to keep your heart safe. Dr TS Kler, Chairman, Fortis Heart and Vascular Institute), Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, says, “Anyone who has recovered from COVID must get their heart screened every six months. This is because COVID can cause underlying cardiac injury such as myocardial inflammation. Recovered COVID patients need to ensure that they begin exercising slowly and steadily and only after a go-ahead from their treating physician. They need to ensure that they go to their doctors immediately if they experience shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain or dizziness.”

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— Tips from Mohit Suri and Siddharth Singh, athletes and fitness experts

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Why cardiac arrest among people in their 30s and 40s can turn fatal

Stressing on the need for regular medical check-ups and to not take “any kind of discomfort lightly”, Dr TS Kler, Chairman, Fortis Heart and Vascular Institute, FMRI, Gurugram, says, “Young people often tend to ignore or not report discomfort, or mistake it for gas, which causes the heart attack – when it occurs – to be massive and instantly fatal. Young people don’t expect that their arteries will get blocked because of their age. So, they don’t go for annual check-ups. One should go for regular check-ups if one has a family history of heart disease and is above the age of 25. For example, if someone has a brother who passed away at the age of 35 due to a heart attack, it is imperative that they start going for regular check-ups after they turn 25. The body changes and responds differently as we grow, and we need to ensure that we are aware of what is happening inside.” Dr Tilak Suvarna adds, “Recognising risk factors early on and taking measures play a big role in preventing a heart attack. Therefore, it is important to do complete health check-ups after the age of 30 to detect such risk factors and then take medicines to control and reduce the risk. Increased stress is another factor, especially during this pandemic, that can cause a heart attack. It is difficult to measure stress, and therefore, it is important to manage it through lifestyle modifications such as yoga, meditation and physical exercise.”

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‘Looking fit doesn’t mean you are healthy’

After learning about Sidharth’s sudden death, many wondered how something like this could happen to a physically fit guy like him. But medical experts say that looking fit doesn’t really mean you are healthy. “I feel, the most critical reason for heart attacks in the younger population, even among those who are fitness freaks and are very particular about their diet, is stress (either at work or in a personal relationship). Factors like smoking further add to this,” says Dr Brajesh Kunwar. Dr Haresh G Mehta, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, SL Raheja Hospital, adds, “Today, many youngsters have an unhealthy lifestyle, which includes excessive stress, lack of sleep, alcohol intake, smoking, unsafe supplements, slimming pills, and excess exercise. These habits are detrimental to health and cause multiple health complications that can lead to sudden heart attacks.” He reiterates that looking fit or going to the gym does not mean you are healthy or leading a healthy lifestyle. “Speak to your doctor for proper guidance on diet, supplements and exercise,” he adds. Dr Mukesh Goel, Senior Consultant, Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeon, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, says, “You could achieve fitness by going to the gym, but you can’t get healthy. Fitness and health are entirely different and should not be confused with each other. That is not to say that you should not go to the gym. People should keep in mind that after 25, every person should schedule an annual health check-up. They should focus on a heart-healthy diet which is a balance of carbs, fats and protein. Include fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. Avoid smoking and stress, which is a major cause of cardiac arrests, and limit your alcohol intake.”

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Watch out for these warning signs

While experts say that one may not always get warning signs, “but one thing to notice is if you are getting breathless and having chest, arm, or jaw discomfort while exercising or physically exerting yourself. If steps could be taken during the time when the warning signs are showing, then fatality would be reduced,” says Dr TS Kler. Dr Balbir Singh, Chairman, Cardiology, Pan Max hospitals, adds that “any uneasiness or heavy feeling in the chest may be the warning.” Dr Vivek Mahajan, Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Fortis Hospital, adds, “Even patients with minor blockages can suffer a massive heart attack. It generally happens due to a rupture or bursting of the blockage from a process known as Vascular Inflammation. To avoid this, high-risk patients such as smokers, those with high cholesterol, high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure and a family history of early heart diseases should undergo regular physical check-ups and change their lifestyle. One should consider learning CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). You hardly have three-four minutes to revive a person when they collapse due to a heart attack, and CPR is crucial at that juncture. Hence, for the larger good, there should be more social awareness about CPR.”

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— With inputs from Niharika Lal and Debarati S Sen


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