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There has been an alarming rise in the incidence of heart attacks among the younger age group of 20-40 years (approx.) the world over. As per recent studies, the number of Indians below the age of 50 years who are prone to coronary artery disease (CAD) and Ischemic Heart Disease (IHD), has risen more than ever before in the last 3 decades. It was observed that in India, approximately 9-10% of the young urban population, and 4-6 % of the young rural population, in the age group of 20-40 years, is afflicted with cardiovascular diseases. Men are more prone to heart attacks than women.

Almost 50% of the total mortalities caused by Myocardial Infarction (MI) or heart attack in India have been observed in people under 50 years of age..

Risk factors & causes of heart disease

Almost all the risk factors and causes of heart disease are interlinked and common to other co-morbidities – they can be termed as co-triggers for other disorders like diabetes, obesity, hypercholesterolemia, dyslipidemia, and hypertension: for example, sedentary lifestyle and fat-rich diet are also high risk factors for diabetes and obesity and are interlinked, as are hypertension, smoking, and stress.

  • Asian population has an inherent genetic predisposition towards diabetes and metabolic disorders, which further cause heart disease;
  • Family history;
  • Type 2 diabetes;
  • Unhealthy lifestyle:

– Sedentary habits, lack of exercise and long hours of sitting;

– Unhealthy diet rich in saturated fat, trans fats, with excess intake of fast foods like fries, burger, pizza, samosa, chole bhature, etc., chocolate, baked and processed foods, etc., with lower consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and fiber, and thus poor in nutrition;

  • Obesity;
  • High levels of stress;
  • Smoking & tobacco use;
  • Excess alcohol;
  • Hypertension.

Tips to Good Heart Health

It would not be amiss to point out that being fit does not necessarily translate to good health, in general, and good heart health, in particular. Genetic predisposition towards heart disease is not in your hands and can be controlled only to a certain extent by medication, whereas bringing about the necessary lifestyle changes for a healthy heart are totally in your control.

  • Annual heart health screening is a must for 20 years and above age group, especially more so, if you have an immediate male relative under the age of 55 years and an immediate female relative under the age of 65 years with a history of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
  • Quit smoking TODAY: Smoking is one of the biggest causes of hypertension, cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke, heart attack, peripheral artery disease, and hyperacidity, besides cancer. Cigarette smoke is full of toxic chemicals and decreases the volume of oxygen in the blood, thereby causing permanent damage to the body’s organs.

Within 1 year of quitting smoking, you will observe a dramatic improvement in overall general health, and cut down your risk of getting heart disease by 50%.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle

Weight management through diet: If you are overweight, you need to achieve your optimum weight by adopting a balanced, healthy and nutritious diet which is low in fat and rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals and fiber, combined with exercise. Even a 10-15% weight reduction can cut down the risk of diabetes and heart attack. Try to achieve a healthy BMI as is suitable for your age, height and weight, and keep abdominal adiposity within the recommended measurements (not more than 30 inches for women and 34 inches for men).

Consult a nutritionist who can devise a diet-plan customized to suit your dietary requirements.

Given below are some suggestions that can be easily incorporated into your daily diet:

*Count your calories and maintain daily notes.

*Kick-start your day with cereal, muesli, oats or multigrain bread which have complex carbohydrates which keep your metabolism busy through the day. Go for 5-6 small and light meals per day and have dinner at least 4 hours before bed time. Avoid snacking between meals.

*Cut down on saturated fats like ghee, butter, and deep-fried oily food.

*Opt for healthy cooking oils like mustard oil, canola oil and olive oil. Avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils.

*Opt for healthier cooking methods like roasting, baking, broiling and braising.  

*Curtail the intake of sweets and sugar. Opt for sugar-free tea/ coffee, and sweeten your dessert with sugar-free sweeteners like stevia.

*Take meats with the fat trimmed off.

*Give preference to double-toned or skimmed milk over full fat milk, and low fat yoghurt.

*Adopt healthy roasted snacks, like murmure (puffed rice), roasted chana, and roasted peanuts (peanuts are high in calories so keep a check on the serving).

*Avoid processed foods, savories, namkeens, pickles and preserves.

*Avoid frequent eating out and takeaways.

*Replace your routine atta flourwith multigrain atta. Go for brown rice.

*Say yes to salads without heavy dressings. Top them with a sprinkling of sunflower, chia or melon seeds instead.

*Go for fresh green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits and have at least 3-5 servings in a day.

*Cut down your salt intake and try not to exceed 1tsp (5 gm) of salt through the day.

*Include nuts like almonds (4-5), walnuts (1-2), and figs (1-2) in your diet.

– Weight management through exercise:

* Shun sedentary habits and avoid long hours of sitting.

* Go for daily brisk walks of at least 45-60 minutes.

* Try to include lifting of light weights, cardio-exercises, and ab-crunches, under the supervision of a fitness instructor only.

* Park your car a little distance away from your destination so that you can walk the rest of the way.

* Opt for the stairs instead of escalator and elevators. However, do not over-exert yourself.

* Adopt a disciplined approach to your daily activities.

* Include a few minutes of meditation and deep breathing exercises daily to alleviate stress and mind-body healing.

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