Health alert: You are never too young to have a heart attack

  • Rhythma Kaul, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 25, 2014 13:35 IST

Ashima Sharma, 21, started experiencing chest pain and breathlessness while walking when she was 18, but she didn't take it seriously.

"I got in touch with doctors a year later when the pain worsened, but even they did not take it seriously. I was not prescribed any tests," says the resident of Panipat, Haryana.

When the chest pain made her collapse two years ago, a doctor advised angiography to check the health of her heart.

Also read: Watch out, heart disease catches you young!

"When the results came, the doctor who looked at the angiography CD refused to accept the results and insisted I repeat the test. They said I could not have heart disease at my age," Sharma says.

The repeat test confirmed the diagnosis and Sharma came to Delhi for treatment. All her three arteries were found to be blocked with cholesterol deposition.

In Sharma's case, doctors said onset of the disease was lifestyle-related, as there has been no family history and she did not have any congenital problem.

As eldest of three siblings from a divorced home, Sharma had taken on the responsibility of raising them.

Also read: Have a glass of milk daily to reduce heart risks

"I started selling my paintings since the age of 14. I would be up painting nights so that I could deliver orders on time. I would not eat on time and would end up eating junk at odd hours or stayed hungry for hours together. There was immense stress and gradually my weight also started increasing rapidly," she says.

Luckily for Sharma, her heart condition stabilized using medicines. "I was told my blood vessels were too small for stents (devices put inside blocked vessels to prop them open) and at my age, an open heart surgery was not recommended, unless done as a life-saving measure," she says.

It's stress that wrecked her heart, say doctors.

"These days stress can be measured on a scale and mine was acute stress. I know I have got a second chance, since doctors managed to stabilize me and I also got married recently, so now I will take good care of myself," she said.

Also read: Health issues: The hours you work determines heart health

Raul Zimba, 36, has a similar story. He's had an incredible seven stents put in his vessels to unblock all three of his severely clogged arteries, one of which was 100% blocked.

His case file shows no family history of heart attack or heart disease; he did not have hypertension, diabetes or any related disease that could have lead to the condition. However, Zimba is a classic example of severe heart disease brought on by bad lifestyle.

A chain smoker, Zimba had been smoking 40 plus cigarettes in a day since his school days . Add to it his job in the hotel industry that resulted in eating out most of the time that kept depositing huge amounts of cholesterol in his arteries.

A study done by the Indian Public Health Association last year found about 76% Delhiites to be overweight or obese, out of which 75% males in the age group of 30-34 stood at cardio vascular disease risk, highlighting how the young productive men were falling prey to heart diseases.

This is the period when you work longer and harder, as do most others around you. Stress, coupled with erratic sleep patterns, causes inflammation, causing heart risk.

This is when you should begin screenings for heart disease. However, doctors warn against overdiagnosis.

"Blood tests to detect sugar levels, cholesterol, lipid profile etc can be done at any time, but one has to be careful about prescribing sophisticated tests such as CT angio, tread mill test, echocardiogram etc.; although these are non-invasive tests yet are done to detect coronary artery disease and must be prescribed for confirmation in high-risk cases only," said Prof. VK Bahl, head of cardiology at AIIMS.

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