Had it not have persisted, Sumit Sharma would not even have bothered to see a doctor. After all, it was just a pain in his left arm. And heart attack was the last thing on the 28-year-old's mind.
But when a customary pain killer pill failed to curb the shooting pain, he decided to go to the Moolchand Hospital. And that's when his condition started to deteriorate. Sharma collapsed the moment he walked into the hospital’s emergency.
"I walked into the emergency at 1 pm. I regained consciousness at 6 am the next morning," said Sharma.
The pain in his left arm was triggered by a 100 per cent blockage in one of the arteries. "He had one attack as soon as he walked into the hospital and had three more after admitted into the emergency. We have to revive him with quick electric shocks. Once he stabilised, we shifted him to the Cath lab where he again suffered an attack," said Dr Deepak Natrajan, consultant, interventional cardiology, Moolchand Medcity. Doctors performed an emergency balloon angioplasty with stenting and saved his life.
Mrinal Mathur (name changed on request), 29, has a similar story. An HR executive with an MNC, Mathur collapsed in his office one day. One of his arteries was completely blocked. But it was all just waiting to happen as Mathur had put on 20 kg of weight in four years, was a three-packs a day smoker, worked from 8am to 11pm, travelled 30 km to work daily, drank five cups of black coffee a day and had no fixed mealtimes. His job entailed hiring and firing people, adding to the stress. "The doctors said I was sitting on a ticking bomb. I try to lead a more regulated life now," he said.
These cases prove that the stress of modern life has exposed even the younger people to the dangers of heart diseases. Excessive stress, coupled with erratic sleep patterns, cause inflammation and increase risk of heart disease. Smoking and a sedentary lifestyle just accelerates heart risk symptoms in those in the age group of 20s and 30s.
"Sulphur and carbon monoxide are among the triggers of heart attacks. Lack of physical exercise is a major problem. In a study of morning walkers, we found 66 per cent people started walking after they had developed a heart condition. Only 25 per cent of these were under the age of 50," said Dr Ashok Seth, cardiologist at Fortis Escorts Heart Institute.
Hearts are at an almost equal risk in rural India too. "If obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are the more common high-risk factors among urban youth, smoking is the biggest trigger among the poor," said Dr VK Behl, head of department of cardiology at AIIMS.
Since prevention can actually reverse heart disease, a person who is overweight or has a family history of heart disease should get screened at the age of 20.
"Some amount of stress is good for us, but coupled with a bad lifestyle and smoking, it is bound to take a toll on the heart," added Dr Behl.