The foreboding spectre of escalating cardiovascular diseases, heart-wrenching incidents of heart attacks, and the untimely death of young souls has become an uncomfortable and pervasive scene in our modern times.
These ailments, which were long reserved for those reaching their sixth decade of life, have now infiltrated people in their fourth decade of life.
This unsettling shift has cast a pall over the medical community, as the heartbreaking sight of vibrant young men succumbing to these ravages of the heart not only causes profound sorrow within families but also creates a palpable void in the tapestry of our society and the collective fabric of our nation.
Speaking exclusively to Drug Today Medical Times on occasion of World Heart Day, Dr Anand Kumar Pandey, Senior Consultant of Cardiology at Kailash Deepak Hospital, Delhi, said that multiple factors trigger heart diseases.
Pointing out that mental health is one of them, Dr Pandey said, "You must have noticed that today people are always in a hurry. Often, they get up in the morning very early, even if they do not need to. Similarly, they always desire to reach their destinations before time while travelling, resulting in rash driving that endangers their lives as well as those of others."
Explaining that eating curry means consuming food laden with trans fats.
Dr Pandey said that according to recent data, people in cities, particularly those in the middle and upper-middle classes, as well as those in higher-income categories, rarely cook their dinners. They instead rely on food delivery services.
"It is not my intention to criticise them, but it is worth noting that we may not always know how long the food has been stored or the quality of the components used in these meals. Many of these foods include trans fats, which can be harmful," he added.
"When I say worry, what I mean is that people are living in a state of continuous anxiety. I do not know what they want to achieve in their lives. So if we combine them, these trigger diabetes and high blood pressure," he explained.
Stressing that mental and physical health are interlinked, Dr Pandey stated that poor mental health often leads to poor physical health, and this is true in other ways as well.
"You cannot separate them, as the mind cannot be separated from the body," he added.
"What I mean to say is that there should be holistic care. Mind, body, and soul should be treated simultaneously. If blood pressure remains uncontrolled, it will lead to anxiety, stress, and frustration," Dr Pandey emphasised.
He said that if he needed to prioritise, he would give priority to mental health before attending to physical health issues.
"I frequently meet patients who, like heroic soldiers, understand they have a medical ailment but remain hopeful and prepared to fight it head-on. They have a strong determination to control their sickness and do not allow it to consume them," Dr Pandey said.
"On the other hand, there are people who have recently been diagnosed with diabetes and are concerned about the potential impact on their kidneys and other organs. This emphasises the importance of mental health in both disease prevention and recovery," he pointed out.
Emphasising that people often miss the concept of mental health, he cited the example of his patients generally asking queries regarding the sudden deaths of celebrities.
"Appearances may deceive; even seemingly fit celebrities can experience sudden tragedy. It is a reminder that true health encompasses physical, mental, and social well-being," he added.
Pointing out that psychiatrists are treating patients with mental illness ten times more than they used to treat earlier, Dr Pandey added, "What I want to convey is that a person who looks physically healthy may not have good mental health. This could be the case for celebrities. Not many people know how celebrities are coping with their stress or pressure. They have a continuous struggle with the environment, with their people, and to keep the space they have for a long time. They have to perform as per the expectations of society. All these things are affecting their health."
"One might take note of the fact that each passing day is rarely without its share of problems, yet it is within our control to select how we traverse this maze of tension. We can use the ancient disciplines of yoga and meditation, as well as a variety of other activities, to calm the turbulent currents of our minds. The pursuit of activities that stoke the flames of our inner delight is, indeed, vital, Dr Pandey said.
Pointing out that mental well-being is a thread that must be sewn into the magnificent tapestry of our lives from the beginning, he added, "Sowing the seeds of mental health awareness in the fertile minds of kids is a preventative measure against the insidious encroachment of disease that would otherwise besiege them in adulthood."
Revealing that around 20% of hypertensive people are living in urban India, he added, "If you translate this number, it would be somewhere near 280 million people, which is a huge number. Similarly, it is estimated that 10% of Indians are diabetics, and around 12% of people have heart diseases."
"Given that these conditions are antecedents to both strokes and heart attacks, it is my firm view that teaching children about the value of well-being and health should begin throughout their formative school years," he emphasised.
“One of them is lifestyle. The most important thing is how you are living your daily life, which determines your health,” he pointed out.
“It has been noted that inadequate sleep, lack of physical activities, not taking meals and breakfast at the right time, and inadequate water intake apart from that, prolonged sitting is a disease itself.
"Good-quality food is a must for good cardiac health,” he pointed out.
It is startling to realise how many young individuals are affected by heart disease today. According to reports, heart problems are appearing at a considerably younger age, with some people getting heart attacks and even losing their lives as early as their thirties.
This is a significant change from the past when cardiac problems were typically associated with those beyond the age of seventy.
"In India, I have noticed a heartbreaking paradox: while some people die of starvation and the ravages of deprivation, others suffer a different but equally deadly fate. The range of health problems here ranges from hunger to overnutrition, with each taking its toll on life. Unfortunately, children are facing the brunt of this schism. On the one hand, their young lives are cut short owing to a lack of nutrition, a basic necessity that eludes them even if it is fully within the reach of the more affluent class," Dr Pandey said.
"On the other side, a substantial section of our youth is dealing with the consequences of overindulgence, such as the burden of lifestyle diseases including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and lipid disorders. These are our generation's silent epidemics, fueled by an alarming lack of physical exercise and a sedentary lifestyle that adds to their spread. The sad reality is that many people in our culture now spend their lifestyles with little physical activity, compounding the health challenges we face," he added.
Talking about a sedentary life, Dr Pandey said that people go to their offices by car, keep sitting on chairs, and keep engaging themselves on electronic gadgets such as mobile phones and computers. So, physical activities are zero. Hence, a structured life is very crucial.
"Adequate water intake, a quality diet, and proper sleep are essential," he stressed.
"Our declining levels of physical activity are at the basis of this problem. Our need to engage in physical activities has drastically decreased since the introduction of contemporary conveniences such as smartphones and remote controls," Dr Pandey said.
Reminiscing about his younger days, Dr Padey added, "I remember when we had landline phones at home; you had to walk to answer a call, and even turning on the television required some physical effort."
Pointing out that people's lives, however, have grown increasingly mechanised, he said, "It is now increasingly forecast that in the near future, even simple tasks like opening gates and turning on room lights will be managed by remote gadgets. So, where does it leave us in terms of exercise?"
Explaining the rise in obesity in India Dr Pandey said that another significant factor contributing to the issue is the shift in dietary habits.
People nowadays tend to rush through breakfast while in work mode, and lunch is often consumed while they continue to work. In the evenings, it is common to indulge in a heavy dinner when it should ideally be a lighter meal. Dinner is often accompanied by television, and shortly thereafter, individuals head to bed. This pattern disrupts the body's ability to effectively digest the food consumed at night, leading to weight gain and obesity.
In the working-class neighbourhood, one can find dinner options laden with unhealthy fats, including trans fats, as popular choices often include pasta, pizza, burgers, and non-vegetarian dishes of uncertain storage duration. These culinary selections raise concerns about their impact on overall health.
However, all is not lost. Dr Pandey concluded, adding that when one focuses on maintaining a structured and high-quality life, as well as nurturing good mental health, opting for low-fat dairy products, ensuring six to eight hours of sleep, maintaining a regular work routine, consuming two to three litres of water daily, and cultivating a vibrant social life, their overall quality of life can be greatly improved.