With rising incidents of heart attack among those in 25-40 age group, a worrying trend in India, experts have recommended extensive cardiac screening at high schools and colleges as an effective measure to prevent such cases.

Changing lifestyle, food habits, high stress in urban areas, binge drinking and use of narcotics have increased the risk factors among youth. Now experts are not surprised to see a teenager or a 25-year-old becoming a victim of heart attack.

“A number of young Indians are suffering from this life-threatening disease and the reason behind it is sedentary lifestyle. These days, we are not surprised at getting patients, aged between 25-35 years, with heart attack cases and emergency,” R N Kalra, cardiologist and Medical Director and CEO of Kalra Hospital (SRCNC), said.”It is a worrying trend and there is an urgent need to educate the younger generation about preventive measures,” he said.

Heart problems among youth in the country are rising alarmingly and the need of the hour is to pay adequate attention to preventive measures and timely detection of disease, Ambuj Roy, Professor of Cardiology at AIIMS, said.

According to the ICMR State Level Disease Burden Report, among all age groups, the prevalence of heart disease has increased by over 50 per cent from 1990 to 2016 in India, with an increase observed in every state. Heart disease contributes to around 17 per cent of total deaths, it said.

According to experts, the biggest cause of heart diseases among young is willful ignorance towards a healthy lifestyle. The risk factors for a heart attack include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, use of substances (narcotics), diabetes, poor diet, obesity, inactive lifestyle and excessive drinking.”Seeds of heart disease are sown at a very young age and thus as a preventive measure, we are calling for wider cardiac screening and health promotion at schools and colleges. The government should also try to see if they can include lifestyle and awareness about heart diseases in the curriculum,” Roy said.”Screening of cardiac condition among youth should include a review of risk factors, blood pressure, heart-related symptoms, family history and other stress-related issues,” he said, adding one-fourth of heart attacks happens to persons below 40 years.

A study conducted at a prestigious government-run heart institute on 2,000 heart attack cases in the last two years revealed 40 per cent of them did not have any conventional risk factor. Hence, cardiac screening among teenagers and youth and regular check-up by all age groups can prevent and reduce heart attacks. “Youngsters also have a tendency to undermine the risk factors. Sometimes ignoring routine checkup leads to the young suddenly succumbing to the disease. A vast majority of youngsters and adults also fail to identify the warning signs -chest pain, breathlessness, undue fatigue, acidity and lack of stamina, chest pressure, cold sweats, asthma or even the side effects of an emotional outburst,” Kalra said.

Neeraj Bhalla, senior consultant and director, Cardiology at BLK Super Specialty Hospital, said, “Obesity, high levels of unhealthy cholesterol and fat levels, diabetes and high blood pressure lead to premature or early heart attacks or severe heart disease in both young men and women.” To maintain a healthy heart, one should avoid tobacco, alcohol and keep an eye on the body mass index (BMI). Regular exercise for at least 30 minutes should be in your routine and it should be supplemented with healthy food intake, quality of sleep and stress management, he explained.

The most common heart issue faced by the young generation is coronary artery disease, the experts said. Another severe condition is characterised by enlarged cardiac muscle cells which are abnormal and associated with further problems, including heart failure, irregular heart rhythms and increased risk of angina and heart attack. Genetic mutation of genes causes another rare heart muscle disease called left ventricular non-compaction (LVNC), they added.