Chennai, India 10 February 2016: An increase in smoking and physical inactivity in young adults in India has led to an alarming rise in heart attacks, doctors warned today at the 67th Annual Conference of the Cardiological Society of India (CSI).
The congress is being held in Chennai from 10 to 13 February 2016. Experts from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) will present a special programme.1
"Heart attack patients were traditionally older than 40 years of age but in the last decade we have seen more and more young adults," said Dr DP Singh, chief medical officer in the Casualty Department, Sir Sunderlal Hospital, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India.
"Lifestyles of young adults have changed dramatically in recent years which has led to an increase in acute coronary syndromes (ACS) including heart attacks," added Dr Singh. "Smoking, physical inactivity and stress are all big problems."
Dr Singh will present new research at the conference which shows the levels of risk factors in 310 ACS patients, including 51 patients aged less than 35 years, who attended the Casualty Department of Sir Sunderlal Hospital during a two year period.2 Patients were 30 years old on average and 90% were male. The youngest patient was 15 years old.
The researchers found that more than 80% of patients were smokers and 18% were obese. They also found that 59% of patients had low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL; also known as the "good cholesterol") and 29% had elevated lipoprotein(a) (LPA), which is known to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The two types of acute coronary syndrome are myocardial infarction (also called heart attack) and unstable angina. The researchers found that 69% of patients in the study had a heart attack.
"Smoking is a very big issue in these young patients," said Dr Singh. "We found that eight out of ten young ACS patients smoke. We also showed that nearly one in five are obese and many have unhealthy levels of blood lipids."
"The lifestyles of young adults in India are unrecognisable to those of the previous generation," continued Dr Singh. "When I was a student we played sports and cycled but now young people are very sedentary. They are glued to their computers, mobile phones and social media. And there are huge numbers of smokers."
Diets have also changed, with more young adults eating high fat, low fibre diets that include fast food. Coupled with low physical activity it has led to rising levels of obesity and abnormal lipid levels in the blood.
Dr Singh's previous research has shown that young ACS patients have high stress levels. "Young people are under more pressure today than they were 20 years ago," he said. "They face a lot of competition for jobs and need to do well in their studies."
He warned that lifestyle changes were urgently needed to curb the growth of ACS and especially heart attacks in young adults in India. "Young people need to quit smoking, exercise, eat a healthy diet and do yoga to reduce their stress," said Dr Singh. "Heart attacks are preventable if people look after themselves."
Professor Santanu Guha, CSI president elect, said: "Heart attacks are increasingly occurring in the younger generation in India because of changes in lifestyle. We have reached a critical point where young adults need to adopt healthier behaviours to avoid a downward spiral towards ill health."
Professor Roberto Ferrari, a past president of the ESC and course director of the ESC programme in India, said: "The rising incidence of heart attacks in young adults in India is worrying. But heart disease can often be prevented. Quitting smoking should be the first priority, followed by being physically active and eating a healthy diet."