Ways to prevent it to happen at a young age

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.[1] A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep,[2] and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.

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Over the past few years, heart attacks has become a rather common condition among the younger lot. But why is it so and how can we prevent it? Find out now!

The recent death of Mirzapur actor Brahma Mishra has sent the country into a tizzy. After all, he was only 36 years old. This isn’t the first time when a young life has been lost to a heart attack. Earlier this year, Big Boss 13 winner and actor Sidharth Shukla succumbed to a heart attack.

In the past, heart attacks were commonly heard in the elderly population. But why is it that such cardiac-related complications are becoming common among the youth?

For the uninitiated, it happens when the blood flow that supplies oxygen to the heart muscle is severely or completely cut off.

Dr. G Ramesh, Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Proctor for Complex Coronary Interventions, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, tells HealthShots all about it.

Are heart attacks common in young people?

In general, men aged 45 or older and women aged 55 or older are at an increased risk of getting a heart attack. However, young victims are more likely to be smokers, obese, and have chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. So all in all, it’s quite evident that an unhealthy lifestyle may be putting a lot of stress on the heart, predisposing young adults to a heart attack.
Make sure to take extra care of your health and get health tests done from time to time.

Symptoms of heart attacks

Many times, the condition can sneak up on you without any warning signs. The process of blockage of heart vessels has no symptoms. What happens is that when blood vessels supplying the heart muscle narrow, other nearby blood vessels that serve the heart, called collateral circulation, sometimes enlarge to compensate for the reduced blood supply. Hence, you may not experience any early signs of a heart attack.

heart attack in youth
Checking the signs and symptoms of heart attack can help you save a life. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Following are the likely symptoms

  • Chest pain or discomfort: Most heart attacks cause discomfort or pain in the centre of the chest. Some people can feel uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, or fullness. It can last more than a few minutes. It may get relieved on its own and then come back
  • Shortness of breath either in presence or absence of chest discomfort
  • Cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, or the neck

Symptoms may vary between men and women

As with men, the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely than men to have some of the other symptoms, including difficulty breathing, nausea/vomiting, and pain in the back or jaw.
You can have a heart attack and not even know it. It is called a silent heart attack and shows no to mild symptoms that go unrecognized by the sufferer.

What are some of the reasons for heart attacks?

Excess cholesterol and fat can build up in the coronary arteries and vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood flow. This can cause them to become narrow. This process is known as atherosclerosis and the build-up is called plaque. When the plaque within a coronary artery breaks, a blood clot can be formed around it.
This blood clot can cause blockage in the blood flow through the blood vessel to the heart muscle, leading to oxygen and nutrient scarcity. As a result, a part of the heart muscle can get damaged, causing a heart attack.

Hence, it is important to keep a check on your cholesterol levels with a lipid profile test.

How is a heart attack diagnosed?

A heart attack can be diagnosed through certain health tests which include:

  • Imaging tests like Echocardiograms and CT- CAG is advised
  • Electrocardiography, a test that measures electrical activity in the heart
  • Blood tests for heart attack can confirm that a (silent) heart attack has occurred. A test that measures cardiac troponin helps to know if heart damage has occurred.
  • Confirmation is by Coronary Angio-Gram (CAG)

How does a heart attack feel?

Having a heart attack is a scary experience. But not everyone who gets it succumbs. Many people survive them and enjoy their lives. For this, it is important you know about the risk factors and keep them under check.

heart attack in youth
A heart attack can feel like severe pain in the chest. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Risk factors

Factors that put a youngster at high risk include:

  1. Smoking and alcohol
  2. High cholesterol levels
  3. High blood pressure
  4. Obesity
  5. Uncontrolled diabetes
  6. Sedentary lifestyle
  7. A family history
  8. High levels of stress

Usually, a heart attack results from a combination of factors and not just a single factor.

Heart attack emergency treatment at home

This is a medical emergency that you cannot treat at home. However, you should know things that you can do if someone experiences a heart attack

How to react when a person shows signs:

  1. Let the person sit down, rest, and be calm but quick.
  2. Loosen any tight clothing.
  3. If the person is unresponsive, call an ambulance, in parallel, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or perform manual chest compressions.
  4. If the person has a known heart condition and takes any chest pain medicine, help them get the medicine. If the pain does not subside, reach out for medical assistance.

Heart attacks after Covid-19

Studies have suggested that Covid-19 can cause damage to the heart muscle and affect heart function. Several reasons have been proposed for this, including the high levels of inflammation circulating in the body. The effect on the heart can be more severe in people having pre-existing heart disease. Ensure taking a doctor’s help if you feel any warning signs, even after recovering from Covid-19.

heart attack in youth
Quit smoking at an early age so as to prevent heart attack in youth Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Preventing heart attack in youngsters

A healthy lifestyle is a key to the prevention!

  • Quit smoking. Smoking more than doubles the risk of getting heart disease.
  • Keep your vitals including blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose, in check.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
  • Get regular exercise. Even brisk walking for 30 minutes can be extremely beneficial for heart health.
  • Limit bad fats (saturated and trans fats) and sugars. Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
  • Check if you are taking too much alcohol and limit it if the answer is a yes.

As we know, heart attack is life-threatening. It needs emergency medical attention. However, many people have survived them due to effective and timely treatment.

All you need is to start incorporating those small changes one step at a time.

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