New Delhi: The most common cause of death among the world are heart attacks. Medical professionals the world over, have always emphasized the symptoms of heart attacks, like chest pain, shortness of breath, cold sweats, etc.
The scary part is that the number of 'silent' heart attacks is gradually on the rise and that is definitely a matter of concern.
Silent heart attacks occur when blood flow to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely.
As per a research, the risk of dying from heart disease increases by three times in case of a silent heart attack and now, it is slowly victimizing younger people.
The sudden demises of Environment minister Anil Dave at the age of 60 and Bollywood actress Reema Lagoo at 59, has triggered concern about silent heart attacks that often strike without a warning.
Dave, who was at a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi till late at night before he breathed his last, didn't show any signs of a serious heart problem. Similarly, Reema Lagoo – who was shooting before her untimely death – had no health issues as confirmed by her family.
Doctors, however, said that while life expectancy among Indians had increased, people were falling prey to sudden heart attacks at a younger age.
"Around 50 percent of Indians under 55 years suffer from heart attacks while 25 percent of all heart attacks occur under the age of 40. So this calls for introspection and making necessary lifestyle changes," said Dr Sandeep Mishra, cardiologist at AIIMS.
Though the minister and the actor – both active till the end – did not face problems related to leading a sedentary life, doctors warned that lack of exercise led to diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension, which were some of the common risk factors behind a heart attack.
Tobacco added to the risk, they warned.
"We have been able to bring the mortality rate due to infectious diseases under control, but deaths due to lifestyle diseases are on the rise," Dr Mishra said.
Recent studies demonstrated that men and women were equally at risk, he said, though earlier surveys had shown that men were more prone to heart attacks than women.
The problem with a silent heart attack was that it often seemed like a simple case of acidity or indigestion. A doctor at Safdarjung said many people who experienced pain in the chest confused it with gastritis or similar problems and did not seek immediate medical help.
"In such cases, the diagnosis is delayed," the doctor said.
According to Dr JPS Sawhney, chairman of the department of cardiology at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, people in India with heart diseases or who suffered an attack were on an average 8-10 years younger than those with similar problems in the West.
"Heart attacks occur without warning in 50 percent of the cases. The death rate in those who reach a hospital and get modern treatment is five per cent," Dr Sawhney said.
The doctors said one of important causes of premature heart attacks in India was familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic condition that led to high cholesterol.
"In a recent study at our hospital, familial hypercholesterolemia was found to be the cause of pre-mature heart attacks in around 25 percent of younger patients," Dr Mishra said.
According to doctors, lifestyle modifications and controlling risk factors could help prevent this condition.
Physical activity, a good diet and not taking stress or smoking were some of the factors that could help people ward off heart problems.
According to the World Health Organization, non- communicable diseases (NCDs) or chronic diseases such as cancer, heart ailments, respiratory diseases and diabetes kill 38 million people globally every year.
Over 20 percent of the country's population suffers from at least one of the NCDs, which would cost India an estimated USD 6.2 trillion from 2012 to 2030, a government report said.
Of the estimated 98.16 lakh deaths in India in 2014, NCDs accounted for 60 percent, or 58.6 lakh deaths.
(With PTI inputs)