There has been a rise in the incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD) in young Indians, according to recent statistics.  Over 50% of cardiovascular disease mortality is seen to occur in individuals below 50 years of age, say experts.

According to the ICMR State Level Disease Burden Report, among all age groups, the prevalence of heart disease has increased by over 50% from 1990 to 2016 in India, with an increase observed in every state. Heart disease contributed 17·8% of total deaths of total deaths.

Thanks to a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy habits, heart diseases are affecting young Indians 10 years ahead of their Western counterparts.

A survey indicates that about 7% of patients between 25 and 40 years of age are found to be suffering from CAD — a condition that impacts the flow of blood to the heart. If the heart doesn’t get adequate oxygen-rich blood then its condition starts deteriorating, putting a person at enhanced risk of heart attack.

Dr Manoj Kumar, Director & Head – Cardiac Cath Lab, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Patparganj, New Delhi, said, “People who have a family history of heart diseases are more likely to have high levels of calcium build-up in their arteries.

Coronary Artery Disease occurs when the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle become hardened and narrowed. This is due to the buildup of cholesterol and other material, called plaque, on their inner walls and is called atherosclerosis.

As it grows, less blood flows through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle can’t get the blood or oxygen it needs. This can lead to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. Blockage in the arteries can develop from a young age.

Apart from timely diagnosis and treatment, precautions and lifestyle changes at an early age can help save lives, says Dr Ashwani Mehta, Senior Cardiologist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.

Wrong lifestyle choices are making youngsters fall prey to obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking, and excessive alcohol use. An unhealthy lifestyle can cause build-up of plaque in the arteries which supply blood to the heart and cause them to become hardened and narrow, he says.

Total cholesterol levels of 240 mg/dL (6.21 mmol/L) or above are known to cause what is called hyperlipidemia. Adults who are 20 years of age or older must get their cholesterol levels checked every 4 to 6 years.

Patients with atherosclerosis and angina may need a treatment called angioplasty. Another option is coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG); a process in which a healthy artery or vein from the body is connected, or grafted, to the blocked coronary artery, says Dr Mehta.

The grafted artery or vein bypasses the blocked portion of the coronary artery. Drug-eluting coronary stents are deployed in coronary arteries after balloon angioplasty. Over long term these stents help to maintain the patency of coronary arteries.

Experts recommend extensive cardiac screening at high schools and colleges as preventive measures because heart attack rates are increasing among adults in their 20s and 30s and it’s a worrying trend in India.

“Cardiac patients between age groups of 25-35 with heart attack cases and emergency is a worrying trend,“ says Dr R N Kalra Cardiologist and Medical Director & CEO of Kalra Hospital (SRCNC).

“Apart from coronary artery disease, yet another severe condition is characterized by enlarged cardiac muscle cells which are abnormal and associated with further problems, including heart failure, irregular heart rhythms , and an increased risk of angina and heart attack.  Genetic mutation of the genes causes another rare heart muscle disease called left ventricular non compaction (LVNC),” informs Dr Kalra.