Globally, India stands at an enviable position as one of the fastest growing economies, and this is only slated to grow further. Why? Because as the rest of the world’s strongest economies age, half of our population of 1.3 billion is below the age of 25. While this is perhaps our greatest strength, there are some precautions to pay heed to. With an increase in per capita income, unhealthy diets, and sedentary and stressful lifestyles, our young population is at greater risk than ever of heart ailments.
I still remember the Mumbai from the 80s where the occasional stepping out for snacks meant the humble pav bhaji, or on special occasions such as Navratri we would visit Pancham Puriwala at Perin Nariman Street, to savour their meals. This meal would seem very healthy compared to the options that the average Mumbaikar has today, ranging from deep fried nuggets and pizzas stuffed with mozzarella to double decker burgers and cheese loaded fries. Not to mention the work from home sedentary lifestyles that have become the norm today, leading to less activities and more anxiety and tension among the youth.
Till 2016, India was the second largest consumer of tobacco products, with about 28.6% of the population using it in some form. By 2017, one of every 8 Indians aged 18 years had elevated glucose levels, with one in every four above the age of 18 having a higher-than-normal blood pressure reading. Now combine this with the median age of the Indian population of 28.4 years, and it is revealed that there is unprecedented scope for young Indians to better their lifestyle and health. And where do these issues of high smoking, consumption of caloric dense-unhealthy foods, and high-stress show up in the human body? On the cardiovascular system. It is no wonder that the World Health Organisation said that one in every five deaths amongst the young population is due to CVDs globally (cardiovascular disease) occurs in India.
But it is not as bad as it seems. The young Indian brigade has become more health conscious, catalysed by the pandemic and its effects, according to a February 2022 study by Ernst and Young. Whether this is pandemic influenced or not, it has potential to lead towards long term habits aimed at better health, fitness and wholesome nutrition. The report showed that 94% of Indians are now more concerned about their family’s health, as compared to 82% globally. Additionally, 40% of Indians are now willing to pay a premium for healthcare, as compared to only 29% of their peers worldwide.
Here is what I would suggest the Indian youth must do to keep their hearts healthy. The first would be to normalise health check-ups at least once in six months as many issues like high lipid levels in blood, high cholesterol levels, irregular heartbeat, or even normal everyday fatigue resulting from some critical underlying cause, might not show up as symptoms. Regular health check-up and a follow up visit with your doctor would help in making minor tweaks in the long run to stave off any chances of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Secondly, it is highly advisable to make maximum use of digital therapeutics and utilise technology to your advantage, especially in the fight against CVDs. Strong evidence-based protocols and tools can help with early detection of anomalies through proactive and real-time monitoring.
For doctors, digital therapeutics can help monitor patients’ health 24×7, while improving clinical outcomes and encouraging adherence to treatment. For patients, apart from proactive monitoring of vitals and adherence, it can provide dedicated tools integrating activities like doctor visits, conducting lab tests and ordering medications on a single platform. Lastly, for caregivers, it can be empowering, with evidence-based insights acting as a motivational factor to better patient outcomes, and eventually minimising hospitalisation and interventional procedures.
Thirdly, make sure that you attend a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training course. at the nearest Red Cross Society, or at a hospital. CPR is a lifesaving skill which can help saving life of person suffering from cardiac arrest.
The first 60 minutes after an individual experiences a heart attack is referred to as the golden hour. It is a crucial period as the heart muscles begin to die within 80-90 minutes after they stop receiving blood, leading to permanent damage and most likely death. Some of the signs that an individual might be experiencing a heart attack are shortness of breath, feeling of restlessness, heaviness on the chest, profuse sweating and persistent pain in the back, left arm and jaw.
If you feel that anyone is experiencing one or more of symptoms, immediately use CPR to reduce the damage and then take them to the hospital immediately within the golden hour. A few simple steps can also go a long way in times of crisis.
While what I have said is extremely relevant to avoid Cardiovascular diseases, prevention is always better than cure. Leading a heart-healthy lifestyle is now more important than ever, and it begins with recognising risk factors that do not produce any uncomfortable symptoms. The time is now for our youth to invest their energies equally and aggressively into their health, as much as they are invested in career and personal growth, because as Nobel Peace Prize winner, Kailash Satyarthi says, “the power of youth is the commonwealth for the entire world.”
This article was first published on 29th September 2022 in the Times of India Blog