By Nishant Arora
If you are young and at times experience sudden weakness, perspiration, shortness of breath and the need to sit down - with your heart beat pulsating like a new racy rap song from Yo Yo Honey Singh - do not just disregard it as a “panic attack”.
With cases of irregular heartbeat - or cardiac arrhythmia - on the rise among young Indians in their thirties, owing to bad lifestyle conditions, heart experts in the country are frequently seeing young patients with such conditions - also known as the disorder of the heart rate or heart rhythm.
“Numbers have gone up. The awareness has also driven young patients seeking help for their earlier diagnosed panic attacks which turn out to be arrhythmia and a completely treatable condition if caught well in time,” Dr Vanita Arora, head (cardiac electrophysiology lab and arrhythmia services) at Max Healthcare Super Specialty Institute in New Delhi told IANS.
Apart from being a congenital condition for some, experts blame the rise on bad eating habits, smoking, alcohol binging, lack of exercise, consumption of soda-laden and energy drinks and stress.
“When I talk to youngsters nowadays, they do not believe in drinking enough plain water but can gulp down three to five bottles or cans of soft/energy drinks everyday. These may act as a trigger for arrhythmia.” she said.
The incidence of smoking has increased dramatically among the youth — in both men and women. “Smoking increases the incidence of ectopics (extra or skipped heartbeat) which can trigger cardiac arrhythmia. Binging on alcohol can also cause arrhythmia,” she cautions.
Lifestyles have also become stressful - especially in metros - giving rise to more cases of irregular heartbeat.
Take the case of 23-year-old emergency nurse Rakhi. “I had just finished an electrophysiology (EP) procedure - a test that records the electrical activity and the electrical pathways of heart - in the cath lab when Rakhi came to see me,” Dr Arora recalls.
“Waiting outside my OPD clinic, she had pushed herself to a corner and was experiencing ‘panic attack’ symptoms at that time. On a hunch, I placed my hand on her pulse and bingo! Her pulse was racing at 200 beats per minute and blood pressure was very low,” she said.
The diagnosis was done. The doctor shifted her to the EP cath lab. “I did her EP study (which does not take more than 45 minutes) and located the problem which was causing her heart beat to go from a normal of 70-90 beats per minutes to 200 beats per minutes,” Dr Arora said.
Free from her “panic attacks,” Rakhi is now serving patients whole-heartedly.
According to Dr Manohar Sakhare, interventiol cardiologist at Columbia Asia Hospital in Pune, young Indians today are at great risk of developing cardiac arrhythmia.
There are two types of arrhythmia. One is supraventricular tachycardia (rapid heart rhythm in upper chambers of the heart) and is generally called atrial fibrillation.
The second is ventricular tachycardia (that occurs in bottom chambers of the heart) and is called ventricular fibrillation which generally occurs in patients with corory heart disease (CAD).
“Ventricular arrhythmia is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in the young population these days,” Dr Sakhare said.
Diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome obesity and sedentary lifestyle are among the reasons for developing ventricular arrhythmia.
“Diet is a crucial factor. Earlier, our diet were fibre-rich but now it has more of junk food with high carbohydrate, saturated and transfats content,” Dr Sakhare laments.
At Mumbai’s vati Super Specialty Hospital, world renowned cardiologist Dr Lekha Pathak is also witnessing more young Indians in their 30s and 40s coming to her for cardiac consultation.
Recently, British researchers found that in some cases, changes in body temperature can also trigger irregular heartbeat.
“The change in body temperature can affect the rhythm of heartbeat. Even normal fever or hypothermia, where the body records an abnormally low temperature, can affect the heartbeat rhythm,” Dr TS Kler, executive director of Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in New Delhi, told IANS.
Frequent anxiety episodes can also trigger irregular heartbeat. “Keep a stress-free atmosphere for study and at workplace, avoid fatty foods and do regular exercise,” Dr Pathak advises.
Food rich in Omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce atrial fibrillation. “This is one of the anti-oxidant benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. Cholesterol-controlling medicines also do the same,” Dr Arora informs.
Avoid anger if you have irregular heartbeat as it may worsen the condition and put you at greater risk.
Quit tobacco and alcohol. Avoid saturated, transfats and processed food. Eat more vegetables, fruits and salads instead. Add brisk walking for 30 minutes to your schedule and try to get seven-eight hours of sleep for perfect heart health, say experts. IANS