Heart Diseases Among Young People: Causes, Symptoms and Preventive Measure
Heart is the most hardworking muscle of our body. It pumps 4-5 litres of blood every minute to the entire body, thereby supplying nutrients and oxygen rich blood to all body parts including itself.
What Causes a Heart Attack?
For supplying blood to the heart there are blood vessels called coronary arteries. Whenever fat and cholesterol deposits called plaques build up within the artery walls, the artery becomes narrow hindering the blood flow. This process is called atherosclerosis. When this occurs in coronary arteries, the heart does not get sufficient blood. This condition is called coronary heart disease or broadly blocks in heart blood vessels. This leads to heart attacks.
MYTH : Heart disease is a disease of old age.
FACT : Fat deposits start in the first decade of life. Some factors accelerate the deposits and cause heart disease to develop at young age.
Risk Factors of Heart Diseases in Youngsters
Non-modifiable risk factors ( which you can’t change )
- Age ( as age increases the risk of developing heart disease increases)
- Gender ( Males usually have higher risk compared to females)
- Family history ( If any of your first degree relatives develop heart disease at young age, you are also at high risk )
Modifiable risk factors ( which you can have a control on )
- High blood pressure Diabetes
- High bad cholesterol Obesity ( high body weight) Physical inactivity
- High amounts of alcohol intake
Majority of events arise in individuals with modest elevations of many risk factors than from marked elevation of a single risk factor
Effects of Cholesterol on Heart
A type of fat, which serves a vital function in the body. But too much cholesterol is bad as it can deposit in the arteries and block them. There are usually no symptoms of high cholesterol till heart attack.
What are the sources of cholesterol?
The two important sources of cholesterol are dietary intake and also it is made in your body. About 65% of cholesterol is made in our body and 35 % is from dietary sources.
Cholesterol from both sources can build up in your bloodstream.
Is there anything called good cholesterol vs bad cholesterol?
LDL cholesterol is the bad cholesterol in the body. It has a tendency to increase the risk of heart disease as it is the major component of the plaque that clogs the arteries.
HDL cholesterol is good cholesterol. It helps to carry some of the bad cholesterol out of the arteries.
Normal levels of cholesterol can be maintained in the body by taking a healthy diet and maintaining adequate physical activity.
How does Cigarette smoking affect the Heart?
Cigarette smoking increases the blood pressure, decreases the good cholesterol, increases the bad cholesterol and damages the cells lining the arteries. More importantly, it causes the blood to clot in the arteries. Smoking is one of the important causes of heart attack in young patients.
At any given cholesterol level, diabetic persons have 2-3 fold higher risk of heart attack and stroke. A diabetic person is more likely to die of a heart attack than a non diabetic person. High blood sugars cause cholesterol to deposit in the arteries, impair the blood flow, and also cause inflammation in the arterial walls making them more prone for damage.
SOME IMPORTANT RULES FOR PREVENTING HEART DISEASE
RULE # 1
- Limit your intake of foods high in calories and low in nutrition like fast foods, soft drinks
- Limit foods high in saturated fat and trans-fat. Choose non-fat or low-fat products
- Eat variety of fruits and vegetables every day ( which are low in fat and high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants)
- Use less fat meats – chicken, fish, lean cuts
- Have less than 6 grams of salt a day
- Maintain a level of physical activity that keeps you fit and matches your calorie intake
- Exercise reduces incidence of obesity, helps control diabetes and hypertension
- Regular exercise also increases the good cholesterol and lowers the bad cholesterol
- Regular exercise can halve the risk of heart disease
Moderate to intense physical activity for 30-45 minutes
on most days of the week is recommended
RULE # 3
Stop smoking now
The risk of heart disease starts decreasing within 24 hours of quitting smoking, and within 2 years the risk reaches the level of a nonsmoker.
Quitting smoking has much more benefits beyond preventing heart disease like preventing cancers, chronic respiraory diseases and other vascular diseases.
RULE # 4
Know your numbers
Every person should know the normal levels of blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and blood cholesterol levels and keep them under control.
Normal cholesterol levels
LDL cholesterol – less than 100 mg/dl ( for patients with heart disease – less than 70 mg/dl)
Total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dl and HDL cholesterol should be more than 40 mg/dl.
All adults must get their cholesterol levels tested and if normal should get retested every 5 years. If abnormal then they should work towards normalising the levels with lifestyle modification and drugs as needed.
Normal Blood pressure : optimal levels 120/80 mmHg
Adults should have their blood pressure checked regularly at least one in 2 years, even if asymptomatic, as there are usually no symptoms of high BP.
If high – modify your lifestyle – diet, weight, exercise and salt intake. And adhere to the prescribed medication.
Even if the blood pressure becomes normal donot stop your medicines without consulting the doctor.
Normal blood sugar levels :
Fasting < 100 mg/dl
2 hour Post meals < 140 mg/dl
All adults should have their blood sugar checked regularly, as there are no early symptoms of diabetes.
If high , modify your lifestyle – diet, weight and exercise. Adhere to the prescribed medication without fail.
By following these simple rules and keeping the modifiable risk factors under control , you can prevent yourself from getting heart disease at a young age to a large extent.
Have a healthy and happy living.
About Author –
Dr. Shaadab Ahmed Mohammed , Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Yashoda Hospitals - Hyderabad
MBBS, MD, DM (cardiology)