On Tuesday, an 18-year-old student, who did not want to be named, studying in Kota for the Indian Institute of Technology-Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE) had a cardiac arrest.
He weighed 90 kg.
"Obesity and stress appear to be the main cause, he had no congenital heart problems," said Dr Purshottam Mittal, an interventional cardiologist in Kota did the live-saving procedure on the boy.
Risk to your heart begins almost the moment you are born. Underweight newborns (weighing less than 2.5 kg at birth) who gain weight rapidly in early childhood are at higher risk of developing the metabolic syndrome, which is used to describe a cluster of risk factors- abdominal obesity, hypertension (chronic high blood pressure), dislipidaemia (high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol) and high tryglicerides (blood fats) and insulin-resistance- for heart disease and diabetes.
Risk to your heart begins almost the moment you are born
All these risk factors are increasingly being diagnosed in adolescence and teens, especially in High School when junk food intake shoots up and activity levels go down as teens spend more time online or studying.
Plaque begins building up in the walls of the arteries (known as arteriosclerosis) very early in life. In fact, fatty buildup has been identified in the hearts of children as young as five years old, and sizeable amount of cholesterol deposition has been seen in arteries of teenagers.
"It is of utmost importance therefore, that, correct practices to decrease cholesterol load in arterial system begins starting at about puberty," says Dr Anoop Misra, director, Diabetes Foundation of India, which has done several studies on early signs of the metabolic disorder in adolescents and teenagers.
Most students put on huge amounts of weight in the months leading up to final or Board exams.
"Like adults, children also have a tendency of storing food in the form of fat instead of utilizing it. These fats get deposited in the blood vessels and they run the risk of having diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases," explains Dr PS Narang, senior consultant, department of paediatrics, Max Hospital.
Obesity is known to be a risk factor for more than 25 different health conditions, including type-2 diabetes, hypertension, gallstone, fatty liver disease and joint and muscle pain.
"To avoid these complications, they should do regular exercise at least 20-30 minutes a day and avoid bad carbohydrates in the form of chocolates, pastries, burgers, pizzas, fried foods and cold drinks. Also, TV and video games should be limited to not more than 30 minutes per day. They should eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, fish and legumes." Dr Narang added.
If it is proven that even children are at risk of developing heart disease symptoms, while they are at a school-going age, so precaution also has to start that early for it to not become a complication during adulthood.
Health education must start in early childhood and parents should act as role models for inculcating healthy eating habits.
Last but not the least, parents as well as children should get more active. "Outdoor activities must be encouraged to reduce the time spent sitting idle before a computer or television screen," said Dr Misra.