No sign of illness, no cords, no medicine, a person may go to bed and never wake up: heart attacks have emerged as a modern-day nightmare. The untimely death of actor Sidharth Shukla has only served as a wake-up call about the increasing incidence of the ailment among the young population. We spoke to Senior Cardiologist Dr. Anil Dhall to understand the situation better.
Dr. Dhall opines that cases of heart attacks or heart problems among young people are not unusual. “Indians are at the highest ethnic risk of atherosclerotic (build-up of cholesterol, fats and other substances in and artery walls) cardiovascular diseases. This genetic risk is compounded by our exposure to a changed lifestyle that is fast food-oriented, full of urban pollution, and involves limited handling of stress in day-to-day life.”
Fatalities due to heart attacks in India are also a result of negligence and lack of sensitivity when it comes to matters of the heart. An important lesson to draw from the untimely death of the actor is to understand the tell-tale signs that may trigger a heart attack.
“Indians have myths about the heart attack that it can only be a particular kind of pain in the left arm that may cause a heart attack. However, any discomfort from the jaw to the umbilicus can trigger a heart attack.”
Dr. Dhall explained two scenarios where heart attack can be fatal. One is a blockage in the artery stopping the flow of blood to the heart. The second is an abnormal heart rate, which may or may not give time to a person to bring it to medical attention. In fact, fatalities due to abnormal cardiac rhythms can happen in the first hour itself.
“Risk factors such as age, lifestyle can inherently increase the risk of a heart attack. However, it is not unusual for a fit, young person to die of a heart attack. We need to sensitize our people that they need to respect symptoms of the heart that can lead to heart attack because heart attacks can kill.”
The most important cardinal symptom is chest discomfort. If a person has had chest discomfort previously, then it may also be Angina (chest pain or discomfort caused when your heart muscle doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood). Other important symptoms include shortness of breath and palpitations.
After the pandemic, our lifestyles have gone through several dramatic changes. We live in a world of screens, emotional turmoil, and stress. According to Dr. Dhall, anything negative in the mind cannot have a positive impact on the body. At first, we must prevent the chances of a heart attack. Thus, it becomes important to have the right balance in attitude, thoughts, and diet. But the most important is timely reporting of symptoms related to the heart. If the symptom is taken care of in time, it may not leave any residual damage to the heart.
“If you have discomfort today, there is no point in waiting for next week to report it. We must report our symptoms in a timely manner so that the benefits of modern medicine can be extended,” concluded Dr. Dhall.