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Gen Now mantra is ticking bomb for heart attacks!

Thursday September 08, 2011 12:26:58 PM, Madhulika Sonkar, IANS

New Delhi: Working 16 hours a day to climb the corporate ladder, puffing away at 20 cigarettes, life condensed in a laptop, Gen Now that lives by the mantra "work hard, party harder" is now the ticking bomb for cardiovascular diseases, experts say, noting that the age for heart attacks has reduced.

Researchers point to the "increasingly high risk of heart diseases in the urban youth" who are not aware of their risk status despite improvement in awareness levels.

"The causes for heart diseases are the same - tobacco use, physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet.

"The major change has been in the age pattern that is coming down to the 30s, especially targeting those with a corporate lifestyle," R.R. Kasliwal, chairman of the clinical and preventive ideology division at Medanta heart institute, told IANS.

"In the Indian situation, people are getting vulnerable to the risk factors in their 20s, while the age of heart attack could fall in the late 30s," he added.

According to a study, among 4,900 office executives, nearly half were found to be suffering from hypertension, around 40 percent were diabetic and an alarming 43 percent were suffering from metabolic disorders and obesity.

"We were shocked to observe that half of the individuals with hypertension were not aware of the fact that they had high blood pressure. The proportion is growing among this strata that has lost control of its life," said Kasliwal, the author of the study that observed the risk factors of participants.

The prevalence of risk factors for heart diseases increased in a span of five years (2000-2005) in the urban north Indian population that was sampled, the study noted.

The study considered the section to have greater access to healthcare and belonging to a relatively affluent section.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) adds to the worrying trends depicted by Indian researchers, saying eight out of every 10 deaths in urban India are caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

Experts feel the trend of early occurrence of coronary heart diseases among younger people finds its roots in obesity.

Said Fortis Hospital Director and Head of Department (Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases) Anoop Misra: "The radical change in lifestyle of the young population has triggered many genetic changes.

"Exercise is hardly there, working hours have changed, absence of regular sleep, intake of junk food and stress about the stiff competition faced by youth have increased."

"These are epigenetic changes -- where the environment causes the change in hormones. Now we suggest regular health check-ups from the age of 25," Misra, former head of the department of medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), told IANS.

The rise in coronary heart disease among younger people has resulted in an increase in patients going for coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. Interestingly, a high prevalence of cardiac disease risk factors are seen even after the surgery.

"In the last three decades, the average age of first heart attack has increased by 10 years in the US but has decreased by 10 years in India. Even after a CABG surgery (for blocked arteries), patients are found to have risk factors such as hypertension and dyslipidemia," Kasliwal explained.

High cholesterol is found in patients even post-surgery. Bad cholesterol increases if the patient continues to smoke, consume alcohol, or the lifestyle does not change, experts warn.

Ask the doctors about the way forward, and the whip comes on the employers.

"There has to be a two-sided approach by the youngsters and the employers. Why can't changes be introduced at the workplace -- have mandatory gyms, healthier options at cafeterias and so on?" Misra asked.

(Madhulika Sonkar can be contacted at



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