Last month, doctors at Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences were taken aback when a 23-year-old daily wager, who presented himself with complaints of chest pain, sweating and giddiness, was diagnosed with a heart attack.
What surprised the doctors was the fact that he did not have any conventional risk factors or a family history of heart attack. A few weeks ago, the doctors had seen a 19-year-old student, who had just started smoking, landing up with a similar problem.
These are not one-off cases. An analysis of 700 patients, including women aged below 40, who were treated at the hospital in the last nine months, revealed that over 40% of the cases did not have any conventional risk factors or family history. The analysis clearly indicated that the incidence of heart disease is increasing among the young, even among those who do not have any risk factors.
Prompted by this and wanting to study why even those without any risk factors are landing up with cardiovascular diseases, the hospital has now tied up with St. John’s Research Institute (SJRI) and the Centre for Human Genetics (CHG). The study titled ‘Premature coronary artery disease - heart attack in the young’ has been undertaken by a team of four assistant professors of cardiology - Rahul Patil, Lakshmi Shetty, Satvik Manjunath, and Vijay Kumar - led by institute Director C.N. Manjunath.
The memorandum of understanding for the study was signed by Dr. Manjunath, CHG Director Sharath Chandra, and SJRI dean Tony D.S. Raj in the presence of Medical Education Minister Sharanprakash R. Patil at a programme on Tuesday. This is in the run-up to World Heart Day that is observed on September 29.
Explaining the cause of heart attacks in the young, Dr. Manjunath said some people have an excessive tendency for clot formation in their bodies.
“This is called hypercoagulable state. In our hospital, we are seeing at least five to six people aged below 25 in a year with problems related to hypercoagulable state and we are concerned about this trend,” he said.
The study will focus on finding out whether there are any new risk factors emerging in youngsters (who do not have any conventional risk factors). A genetic analysis will be done to study whether there are any genetic mutations that are increasing the risk for heart attacks, the doctor explained.
An emerging risk
Apart from conventional risk factors such as diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, stress and family history, increasing air pollution is turning out to be a new risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
“Inhaling polluted air is nothing but urban smoking, and is as bad as smoking. The incidence of heart attacks is three to five times more in smokers than in non-smokers,” Dr. Manjunath said.
Pointing out that an increasing number of auto-rickshaw drivers and traffic policemen were now being treated at the hospital, the doctor said, “Polluted air contains hydrogen suphide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ozone. Besides, rampant garbage burning that includes plastic and rubber material is only adding to the air pollution. While other countries have already woken up to tackle air pollution, there needs to be a concerted effort by authorities to check this problem here.”