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Heart skips a beat, not romantic anymore

COVID, depression, diabetes, hypertension, sleep-deprivation and lifestyle are some of the reasons why heart-related fatalities among seemingly healthy individuals are on the rise, claim cardiologists, DT Next reports

Heart skips a beat, not romantic anymore

Representative image (Illustration: Saai)

CHENNAI: Drinking plenty of coffee, frequently taking a break to smoke with friends, quietly taking a nap on the reception couch, late-night working and partying, binge-watching shows, movies and/or sports – these are now considered to be part of an everyday routine.

However, cardiologists in the city opine that lifestyle changes like these lead to several heart issues among seemingly healthy individuals that are often fatal. Even if they survive a heart attack or stroke, it’s a permanent change their body undergoes, which means that complications are bound to arise frequently.

Post COVID-19

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) continues to explore the links between COVID-19, heart attack and the long-time impact of the infection.

ICMR experts say that studies help to understand the cause behind the rising cases of fatalities due to heart attack among those infected with COVID. This is based on autopsy reports of individuals between the age group of 18-50 years.

Meanwhile, several international studies have pointed out the risk of heart attacks and the permanent damage to the heart of those who had COVID.

Cardiologist Wendy Post says in an article published in John Hopkins Medicine, “There are two types of heart attacks. Type 1, caused by a blood clot blocking one of the arteries, is rare during or after COVID infection. Type 2 heart attacks are more common with COVID. This can be caused by increased stress on the heart, such as a faster heartbeat, low blood oxygen levels or anaemia, because the heart muscle isn’t getting enough oxygen to do this extra work. Blood tests have shown that during the pandemic, some people had elevated levels of a substance called troponin in their blood, which indicates damaged heart tissue.”

However, there is no clear evidence to establish the links in this regard due to unavailability of adequate medical research. And, long-term impact can be determined only in the days to come.

Sleep cycle

Sleep-deprived patients are common in the cardiology department, according to health professionals.

Cardiologists claim that sleep deprivation increases the risk of cardiovascular problems in people of all ages and genders. But those between the ages of 30 and 50 are more susceptible since they do not value a restful night’s sleep.

Dr Thejeswi N Marla, cardiologist at Fortis Malar, explains the link: “Sleep helps the cells to relax and regenerate on their own, similar to how eating affects every cell in the body. Adults need a solid 8 hours of sleep each night to maintain healthy cardiovascular health.”

Until a few decades ago, women were considered to be immune to fatal heart attacks. Not anymore!

Studies have shown that women who suffer from lack of sleep are more at risk of getting a heart attack. Young women tend to sleep less nowadays need to know that men lose nearly 7 years of their life due to sleep deprivation and related disorders, and women over 7 years.

A person’s hormone levels, such as cortisol and leptin, go haywire when they do not receive enough restorative sleep. “The development of lipids, cholesterol, irregular heart rhythms, and other chemicals in the arteries that cause heart attacks is brought on by the elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. We eat more and exercise less when leptin levels are low. These factors create a vicious cycle and raise the risk of cardiovascular disease,” points out Dr Thejeswi.

Diabetes, hypertension

Sudden onset of chest discomfort such as tight squeezing of the cheat, persistent heartburn and indigestion are all early signs of a heart attack. Fatigue can also be a sign, with light-headedness and dizziness or shortness of breath.

Dr CS Aravind, senior cardiologist, Sugam Hospital, says that symptoms with risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, kidney disease, strong family history and genetic predisposition warrants immediate attention.

“Once heart attack is diagnosed, it’s a race against time to prevent permanent damage to the heart. Hence, immediate visit to the hospital and getting basic tests like ECG, ECHO and blood test for heart attack (troponin) will save you from life-long misery of heart failure and morbidity,” he states.

There are several media reports of healthy youngsters dying of sudden cardiac arrest. Doctors opine that the link of heart attack with diabetes and hypertension is ignored and can be of high risk.

“The common cause of heart attacks and sudden cardiac death in young people is due to undetected and undertreated hypertension and Diabetes Mellitus (DM). Also, bad lifestyle habits like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, unhealthy food habits, lack of exercise, late-night sleep and stress are also adding to the early onset of disease process,” says Dr Srikumar S, interventional cardiologist, Prashanth Hospitals.

He advises youngsters to follow the ‘6 E habits’ to prevent an early heart attack. “Exercise regularly, take care of your emotional health, eat a healthy diet, get enough good quality sleep, exit addiction (smoking, alcohol, junk food, eating out, sleeping late often) and evaluate your numbers (sugar, BP, cholesterol, weight) regularly,” he adds.

Workout responsibly

Understanding the potential risk factors for the heart of your health is crucial before beginning any type of workouts.

Medical experts caution against engaging in vigorous physical activities, whether it’s gym workouts or participating in marathons, without knowing how it could affect your heart.

“Use of anabolic steroids, which are primarily used to stimulate muscle growth, and excessive consumption of high-protein diets too can prove to be counterproductive,” avers Dr M Sampathkumar, a senior consultant cardiologist, Meenakshi Mission Hospital. “Often, people neglect to follow-up on preventive measures or push themselves to the extreme, whether it’s intense physical training or excessive intake of high-protein diets. Both lead to heart problems.”

Dr N Ganesan, HoD-cardiology at the same hospital, states that stress and mental health challenges, coupled with a deficiency in social well-being such as loneliness and unhappy relationships with family, friends and neighbours, often take a heavy toll on the heart.

“In the past, the primary emphasis was on ensuring sufficient physical activity, quitting smoking, and managing cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. However, now, with lifestyle changes what’s equally important is to explore methods for living a stress-free life, or at the very least reduce stress, get sufficient sleep, and minimise exposure to air and noise pollution,” he opines.


Depression is often overlooked in both urban and rural areas and has emerged as a significant risk factor for heart diseases, particularly fatal coronary conditions such as heart attacks.

Dr Rajesh Thachathodiyl, senior interventional cardiologist, head of adult cardiology, Amrita Hospital, Kochi, says, “Depression significantly increases the risk of heart diseases, especially conditions like heart attacks and blockages. Social biases discourage open discussions on mental illness. Such taboos exacerbate this issue, as it leads to reluctance in seeking help for mental health problems, which jeopardises heart health. Recognising depression as a critical risk factor and dismantling the stigma around mental health discussions are crucial in keeping your heart healthy,” he elaborates.


• Chest pain that may feel like pressure, tightness, pain, squeezing or aching

• Shortness of breath

• Pain or discomfort that spreads to other parts of face and upper body

• Excessive sweat, fatigue

• Heartburn or indigestion

• Dizziness, nausea

Apollo Hospitals organised a heart-shaped human chain formation at Marina beach on Sunday to mark World Heart Day

Shweta Tripathi
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