Sedentary lifestyles, poor fitness levels and too much fast food is catching up with Indians under 40.
A recent study shows one in 10 Indians who underwent an angioplasty procedure in 2015 was under 40. The National Interventional Council, an association of cardiologists, analysed data from 3,53,000 angioplasty procedures to arrive at their findings.
An angioplasty is a procedure where a doctor places a stent in the heart’s arteries to correct a critical block that could lead to a heart attack. The stent widens the arteries that were narrowed down by cholesterol deposits.
The study found that in eight out of 10 patients who had an angioplasty last year, only one vessel of their heart was diseased. This means the blockages are being picked up early, said Dr NN Khanna, the council chairman, instrumental in collecting the data from 614 surgery centres across India.
Sedentary lifestyle, tobacco use and too much fast food has led to the proportion of Indians under 40 with heart disease more than doubling in the past two decades, doctors said.
“Earlier, we saw three to five percent of Indians under 40 with coronary artery disease,” said Dr Prafulla Kerkar, head of the cardiology department at the state-run KEM Hospital.
He said there are studies that show Indians are already genetically predisposed to coronary diseases. More evidence, however, is needed to establish this.
Doctors said while the risk factors triggering coronary artery disease in Indians were similar to Europeans and Americans, Indians developed the condition earlier.
The former president of the Cardiology Society of India, Dr SK Chopra, blamed pollution and a sedentary lifestyle.
“A decade ago, we hardly saw people in their thirties having a heart attack. Now, it is extremely common to see even those in their late 20s and 30s,” said Dr Chopra, adding Indians consume food rich in saturated fat, which is another risk factor for developing blockages in blood vessels of the heart.
The good news, however, is the quality and access to treatment has improved, the study said.
“The accessibility to quality treatment has improved because of government schemes, with 23% of the procedures last year being funded through various such schemes,” said Dr Khanna
Many hospitals, however, still used obsolete technology for the stents, the study found.
Around 5% of the 4.75 lakh stents used in India last year were made of metal, while the rest were drug-eluting — or stents that release drugs into the artery to prevent the accumulation of cholesterol.
The bare metal stent has a higher risk of restenosis or reoccurrence of a blockage at the same site, so most doctors prefer the drug-eluting variety.
But more than 70% of the stents used in India last year were imported, according to the council, highlighting the poor reliance on Indian-made ones.
“It is not that Indian stents are not preferred, a clinician looks at the scientific data available and unfortunately the data from Indian companies is marginally less,” said a senior doctor from a government hospital.