Symptoms of cardiovascular diseases often go unnoticed in children and young adults due to their traditional association with older individuals. This lack of awareness frequently leads to undiagnosed cardiovascular conditions in young people, resulting in severe health complications and, tragically, even fatalities. The primary driver of these heart diseases in our country appears to be the escalating epidemic of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
On World Heart Day, doctors at Amrita Hospital in Kochi showed their concern over the shifts in heart disease trends among young adults. They highlighted a significant increase in cardiovascular cases, including heart attacks, affecting both young men and women, causing widespread concern. Doctors emphasized key factors linked to heart attacks in young people, aiming to raise awareness among both youths and their parents and promote overall physical and mental well-being.
Dr. Hisham Ahamed, Associate Professor and Consultant Cardiologist, Amrita Hospital, Kochi, said, “Diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol are the silent culprits behind a surge in youth heart attacks. It is crucial to share that everyone can be equally predisposed to these conditions. Identifying risk factors through regular check-ups, especially after reaching 40 or 45 years of age, is essential. Alongside raising awareness, it is vital for everyone to recognize these risk factors and adopt a healthy lifestyle.”
Dr. Hisham Ahamed emphasizes the importance of genetic factors in heart disease risk, “We observe numerous young patients, including athletes, with heart disease linked to strong genetic factors, such as atherosclerotic disease that often leads to heart attacks and myocardial infarctions, particularly in families with a history of it. Our approach involves genetic testing for precise risk assessment and intervention, incorporating medication and lifestyle adjustments. Additionally, cardiomyopathies like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy significantly contribute to sudden deaths, especially among athletes and those under 45 years old. Given the hereditary component of heart disease risk factors, it is imperative to proactively undergo preventive assessments and screenings to identify and address potential risks, thereby prioritizing heart health to mitigate the impact of family history on overall well-being.”
Lifestyle factors and other comorbidities undoubtedly play a significant role in this scenario. Nevertheless, individuals with a strong family history of heart disease, particularly when it manifests at a premature age, should maintain heightened vigilance, and take proactive measures.
In the context of changing trends in cardiovascular health, Dr. Saritha Sekhar, Adult Cardiologist, Amrita Hospital, Kochi said, “In recent years, we have observed a worrisome shift in cardiovascular health, markedly different from two decades ago. A rising number of younger individuals now experience multiple blockages in their blood supply. Importantly, this trend is not gender specific. While we previously believed women were protected from heart disease during menopause, this is no longer the case. Young females are developing multiple risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, and thyroid disease. These factors, combined with the obesity epidemic and sedentary lifestyles, contribute to heart disease in younger individuals. Although the disease’s nature is similar in both genders, the evolving landscape underscores the growing vulnerability of young females to heart disease and early heart attacks.”
Cardiologists at Amrita Hospital in Kochi have also highlighted an additional factor contributing to heart problems—an increasing prevalence of depression. Depression is often overlooked in both urban and rural areas and has emerged as a significant risk factor for heart diseases, particularly coronary conditions such as heart attacks.
Dr. Rajesh Thachathodiyl, Senior Interventional cardiologist, Professor & Head of Adult Cardiology, Amrita Hospital, Kochi added, “Depression, often overlooked, significantly increases the risk of heart diseases, especially conditions like heart attacks and blockages. Social biases discouraging open discussions on mental health, considered taboo in India, exacerbate this issue. The rising prevalence of depression adds to the health challenge, impacting urban and rural areas alike. Reluctance to seek help for mental health problems jeopardizes heart health. Recognizing depression as a critical risk factor and dismantling the stigma surrounding mental health discussions is crucial.”
Dr. Navaneetha Sasikumar, Associate Professor of Pediatric Cardiology, Amrita Hospital Kochi, said, ‘’As a pediatric cardiologist, I witness the shifting landscape of child mortality firsthand. Noncommunicable diseases like congenital heart conditions are emerging as significant threats to our children’s well-being. In this era, our duty is clear: We must equip ourselves with knowledge and expertise to ensure early identification and treatment. ‘Use Heart, Know Heart’ on this World Heart Day serves as a reminder that we, as healthcare professionals, parents, and caregivers, must unite to safeguard the hearts of our youngest patients.”
Health experts advocate adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle which involves focusing on nourishing foods, eliminating tobacco use, and making physical activity a daily priority. Regular health screenings, including blood pressure, cholesterol, lipids, and mental health check- ups, are crucial for early detection and management of heart disease risk factors. Timely intervention and preventive measures are essential in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Proactive screening is recommended for individuals of all ages, as it plays a significant role in maintaining heart health.