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How is heart attack different from cardiac arrest? Cardiologist answers

In India, 25 per cent of heart attacks are occurring among people below 40, says the doctor



Cardiovascular disease is emerging as a pandemic in India, Dr Naveen Bhamri, Director and Head of Cardiology, Max Hospital Shalimar Bagh, says. His children Paavni and Vihaan are students of Apeejay School, Pitampura, in classes 11 and 6 respectively. “Apeejay Pitampura exhibits all the qualities of a good school in terms of the growth of children, resources, teaching pattern, etc. Conceptual understanding and diversity of thought are what are encouraged in the school. Along with that, they promote a fine blend of academics and extra-curricular activities. I have been connected to the school for a very long time and I appreciate how supportive they are,” he remarks.

In an interview, the doctor highlights the major causes behind the increasing risk of cardiovascular diseases among people below the age of 40, preventive tips, lifestyle changes, and so on. Read:

What is the difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest?

Most people think heart attack and cardiac arrest are one and the same. But that is not true. The heart is supplied by three arteries called the coronary arteries. Heart attack occurs when there is a fatty deposit inside the coronary artery and it gets blocked, restricting blood supply. The fatty deposit inside the blood vessel leads to the formation of a blood clot and that can lead to heart attack.

Cardiac arrest is when your heart stops beating suddenly. This can be because of two reasons—either your heart rate becomes too low and your heart stops pumping or if the heart rate shoots above 300. And heart attack is one of the major causes of cardiac arrest.

What are the common cardiovascular diseases in India now?

These include myocardial infarction or heart attack as well as brain stroke. Nowadays, heart attacks have become common among young people below the age of 40 in India—25 per cent of heart attacks are occurring among these people. Before 2000, mostly people who were 50 and above were getting affected.

This is a major concern in India. Cardiovascular disease is an emerging pandemic in the country. In terms of survival rate, it is better in cancer patients as compared to cardiovascular patients. There is an increasing risk of heart attack, heart failure, and sudden cardiac death, thereby decreasing quality of life and life expectancy.

What are the major risk factors?

The risk factors can be divided into non-modifiable and modifiable. Non-modifiable includes increasing age, gender, family history, race, etc.  Modifiable risk factors include smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Through food delivery apps, the consumption of fast foods or fried foods has increased. The kids are also directly exposed to free fatty acids, which increases the risk. You have to keep these in check to keep cardiovascular diseases at bay.

Why are more young people getting affected now by cardiovascular diseases?

Smoking is one of the major threats. Second is drugs, which are commonly abused by school and college students. High cholesterol and a high-fat diet are also major reasons. Earlier, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension would usually affect people after the age of 40 or 50. But now, these are common among youngsters. Obesity, for instance, is very commonly seen in school students. On the other hand, there is more physical inactivity because of increased screen time. We have to change our lifestyle to avoid the risk.

Is there a gender difference in terms of the risk of cardiovascular diseases?

Initially, yes—till a decade ago, there was a gender difference where men were more prone to cardiovascular diseases as compared to women. Before menopause, there is a protective hormone in the female body called estrogen. Once menopause is crossed, the risk of heart attack is almost equal in men and women.

However, heart attacks in females have become much more prevalent now compared to men. Women tend to ignore or misinterpret their symptoms and are reluctant to consult a doctor. Besides, smoking in females has also increased. That is why there is no longer a gender difference, especially after menopause. 

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Senior Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.