BENGALURU: Is 16 the new 40 when it comes to heart attacks? It appears so going by the patients’ registry at Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, the biggest cardiac-care hospital in Asia Pacific.
Cardiologists at the government-run hospital are shocked and puzzled in equal measure after noticing a steady stream of young patients — those in the 16 to 40 age group — being admitted with heart attacks. Doctors say they admit about 150 young patients — about eight of whom are below 25 years — every month. This translates to a minimum three to four cases every day.

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Doctors the world over are finding an increasingly significant correlation between traffic and cardiovascular disease. It is therefore unsurprising that cab drivers constitute a quarter of the youngsters being admitted for treatment at Jayadeva hospital. The inference is obvious: The easiest way to build a healthy country is to ensure a public transport system that is reliable, rapid and comfortable. The other big contributor to heart disease is exposure to noise pollution. A surefire way of reducing noise pollution is to crack down on the excessive use of vehicular horns. Can the government and corporates work towards these ends?

Under a project, Premature Coronary Artery Disease (PCAD), the hospital analysed cases of youngsters (), with symptoms of . The hospital had admitted 1,864 youngsters since April 2017. In fact, six youngsters were admitted at the hospital on Friday alone.

The youngest patient treated at the hospital recently was a 16-year-old from Andhra Pradesh, who resides in a Bengaluru hostel. The I PU student had a heart attack, and initially mistook the symptoms for a gastric problem, doctors said.

“Most of these patients ignore the warning signs,” said Dr Rahul S Patil, cardiologist, principal investigator of the PCAD clinic. “They mistake heartburn for a gastric problem, but as their condition worsens with excruciating pain, they understand that it is not just that.”
When TOI visited the hospital on Friday, a 19-year-old from Mandya was being treated for a heart attack in the ICU. The teen, who recently moved out of Bengaluru after his father’s death early this year, admitted he was an alcoholic and a smoking addict and this may have aggravated his health.

But doctors say the Mandya teenager is an exception. “We found that most patients below 40 years do not fall into any vulnerable conditions like cholesterol, diabetes, obesity or smoking that trigger a heart attack,” said Rahul.

Doctors say lifestyle changes, diet, air pollution, stress and genes could be the contributing factors. While most cases are from Bengaluru (45%), the rest were referred by hospitals in other districts.

“Incidentally, 25% of the patients are cab drivers,” said Rahul. “The rest are mostly professionals who travel for more than an hour every day amidst city‘s traffic and pollution.”

Äccording to Dr CN Manjunath, director of the institute, everyone in Bengaluru is smoking. “We might not be smoking cigarettes, but we are all inhaling polluted air, which has its impact on our health,” Manjunath said. “Today’s youngsters are over-ambitious and have unrealistic goals, which only adds to stress. Nuclear families where young couples lack social support system also triggers stress. These non-measurable risk factors have tremendous impact on the younger generation.”

Manjunath recalled the case of an engineer in his early 20s who was preparing for the UPSC exam; he suffered a heart attack and was treated at Jayadeva three months ago.

The data shows an overwhelming majority (92 per cent) of youngsters suffering heart attacks are men. “Young women are protected by reproductive hormones and have a natural barrier to heart attacks,” Rahul said. “But of late, we are noticing women who are facing early menopause and hormonal imbalance leading to cardiac complications.”

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