A week after a minor heart attack, 41-year-old Avinash Sharma, an investment banker, resumed his hectic schedule. Another week later, he resumed smoking and started attending late-night parties. Two weeks ago, he was back in hospital with an acute heart problem and underwent a bypass.
What Sharma did wrong, say doctors, is what hundreds of Calcuttans in the 35-45 age bracket are doing day in, day out — ignoring the basic medical advice to slow down after 35 to avoid heart problems.
Statistics tell a sorry tale — B.M. Birla Heart Research Centre admitted 2,189 patients below 55 years for cardiac surgeries last year, of whom 1,000 were in the 35-45 age group. The Rabindranath Tagore International Institute for Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) treated over 400 heart patients in the same age-group between April 2002 and March 2003, while at Woodlands Hospital, a majority of the 600 cardiac cases last year fell in this bracket.
“It’s amazing that patients, despite detailed advice on a lifestyle shift, ignore it completely and compound their problems,” says Birla Heart Research Centre’s clinical director and interventional cardiologist Anil Mishra. Cardiac surgeon Kunal Sarkar of RTIICS conducted 300 surgeries in 2001. In 2002, he performed 600. “I think prevention is the key. Moving out of the city on holiday helps a lot.”
The other advice to healthy living includes a low-fat diet, regular exercise and a balance between rest and activity. “A consistently irregular lifestyle after 30 is asking for trouble,” warns Sarkar.
The Birla Centre, during a recent survey, traced most cardiac problems among younger patients to “bad food habits” and “unhealthy lifestyle”. “The fact that cardiac patients are much younger than they used to be is worrying. They are mostly from the corporate sector and other fields where the stress factor is high,” says the Centre’s cardiac surgeon Ajay Kaul.
It has finalised plans to start a rehabilitation centre, where patients will undergo psychotherapy, exercises, physiotherapy and counselling sessions, to avoid heart diseases and also get back to normal life post-surgery. “Patients these days need to be counselled that a normal life with proper food habits is the key to a good heart,” stresses Subrata Maitra, cardiologist with Woodlands Hospital.