Heart problems, today, are not just diseases of the adults and the elderly, but a large number of youngsters are developing heart problems too. All thanks to the sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise, that have been the leading cause for increase in the number of young heart patients.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), heart problems are the number one cause of death globally. However, one needs to understand that heart diseases can be prevented with certain precautionary measures.
A healthy diet, regular exercise and leading a stress-free life are the key factors to prevent heart problems.
So with the World Heart Day just around, Dr Vivek Jawali, Chairman, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at Fortis Hospitals, Bengaluru, speaks to Boldsky about the causes and ways to prevent heart problems among youngsters.
1. Why Are More And More Urban Youngsters Falling Prey To Heart Problems?
Dr Vivek: There are two aspects to this:
Improved diagnosis helps identify number of cases.
Increased incidences in younger people because of change in genetic patterns, increase in diabetes and hypertension, increase in urbanization, increased work tension and pollution and change in eating patterns.
2. Signs Of Heart Problems Youngsters Need To Watch Out For?
Dr Vivek: Youngsters should have a check on the risk factors which predispose them to develop this complexity, for example, heart problems in family history may make them vulnerable to some heart problems.
People with diabetes and high blood pressure should keep a check on their heart conditions.
No smoking, control on carbohydrate and sugar in the diet, have control over trans-fat and limit junk food. They shouldn't become couch potatoes. Even if they are not exercising or going for walks, they should try taking the stairs instead of the lift. Do physical activities like dancing, playing with the kids and cycling. If possible walk everyday morning.
3. How To Prevent Heart Problems?
Dr Vivek: A few steps like morning walk, healthy eating, physical activity, avoid smoking and reduced weight will help prevent heart problems. Check for your ideal weight on BMI and try to maintain the weight accordingly. The BMI measures weight in kilogram and measures height in metres. Divide weight by height. The ratio which they get should be between 18.5 - 23.9.
If the BMI is beyond this, they must work on their weight.
4. Food Habits To Follow To Prevent Heart Problems.
Dr Vivek: Include more raw food (fruits and vegetables) in your diet. About six palmful of fruits and vegetables should be taken everyday. Also, one must cut down on sugar and carbohydrate and completely avoid junk food.
5. What Are The Risk Factors For Heart Problems?
Dr Vivek: The good health of our heart depends on managing many risk factors. Few of these risk factors can be managed through medical and lifestyle interventions, before they become critical, but few factors are not in our control and cannot be managed.
The factors which can be managed and modified are called Modifiable Risk Factors. The factors which cannot be managed are called Non-modifiable Risk Factors. It is important that people are aware and conscious about the Modifiable and Non-modifiable risks associated with their heart by virtue of their lineage, life stage and lifestyle. Since all three are related with each other and more often than not, people tend to have more than one risk factor associated with them.
It may not necessarily mean that people develop cardiovascular diseases if they have a risk factor. But the more risk factors you have, the greater the likelihood that they will, unless they take action to modify their risk factors and work to prevent the growth of these factors. The main Modifiable and Non-modifiable risk factors include:
Non-modifiable Risk Factors:
Family History: The risk of developing heart diseases increases if close blood relatives have developed any heart disease at an early age (before 55 years). If somebody's parents developed a heart disease later in life, it may be age-related rather than genetic. It is important to inform your family doctor of the family history so that he can advise and spot any rising problems.
Age: Simply getting old is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases; risk of stroke doubles every decade after age 55.
Gender: Heart diseases remain the leading cause of death in both men and women. Women are at relatively lesser risk than men till the premenopausal age. Women have more chances of heart diseases after the age of 55, whereas, men are prone to and are at higher risk at any age.
Ethnicity: Studies have reflected that South Asians are four time more prone to heart diseases as compared to other ethnic groups.
Modifiable Risk Factors:
Smoking: Self-control makes smoking the most preventable and modifiable heart disease. Smoking leads to the thickening of heart and reduces the pumping ability of the heart. This situation if prevalent could lead to heart failure.
Diabetes: If you have diabetes you are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than people without diabetes. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality for people with diabetes.
Cholesterol: The cholesterol profile mainly includes Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. LDL contributes to the artery blockages (plaques) and is considered as bad cholesterol. 100mg/dl is considered as safer limit for LDL. The total level of cholesterol (LDL + HDL) should not be more than 200 mg/dl.
High Blood Pressure: When one has high blood pressure, the heart has to work harder to push blood around the body. To cope up with the extra effort, the heart becomes thicker and stiffer, which makes it less able to do its job.
Obesity: It is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and has been strongly associated with insulin resistance. As BMI increases, the risk of heart diseases and strokes also increases.
Hypertension: Hypertension can damage the cell of inner arteries. This could have a cascading effect leading to artery wall thickening and stiffening, bringing in a condition called arteriosclerosis.
6. What Are The Best Ways To Prevent Heart Problems In Youngsters?
Dr Vivek: Lead a relaxed lifestyle, eat right, watch your weight and don't smoke. A glass of red wine or a moderate amount of alcohol is allowed; however, do not eat junk food along with alcohol. Physical activity is an important tool to reduce the risk of heart diseases.