Civil engineer Parshuram (surname withheld on request) was driving to his parents' home in Bhiwandi to celebrate his 23rd birthday when he suddenly got nauseous and felt heaviness in his chest. He dismissed it as acidity caused by the beer he had guzzled with friends the previous night.
But Parshuram was soon drenched in sweat and breathless. "I somehow managed to drive into Jupiter Hospital in Thane before my head dropped on the steering wheel," he said.
Parshuram had suffered a massive heart attack. Interventional cardiologist Dr Vijay Surase performed an emergency angioplasty last October to open the blocked heart vessel and saved his life.
Parshuram is not the only one to have suffered a heart attack while still in his twenties. A growing number of young people, mostly men, are troubled by coronary artery disease, a condition earlier seen in people above 55 years. Dr Surase has treated seven men under 30 in the past six months.
"Till five years back, I used to see one or two young patients in a year," he said.
While genetic predisposition and conditions such as diabetes and hypertension are the underlying causes, cardiologists blame sedentary lifestyle, junk food and stress for precipitating heart attacks early.
Parshuram used to smoke 40-plus cigarettes a day, party late and binge on fried beef. "I had taken a loan of Rs 55 lakh to start my own business, but it failed. I was under tremendous pressure to pay the instalments," he said.
Rahul Sinha (21, name changed), who suffered a cardiac arrest last month, paid the price for six years of chain-smoking.
"He had no family history of heart disease but his lifestyle was faulty. We are helping him modify it," said Dr Bijoy Kutty, who performed a bypass surgery on Sinha at Platinum Heart Institute in Mulund.