As we celebrate the #WorldHeartDay this September 29th, I feel honored to have Dr. Roshan Radhakrishnan to talk about the rampant rise of heart diseases among the millenials & why we REALLY need to stop being labelled as the ‘unhealthiest’ generation once for all.

The facts speak for themselves and for the first time in history, they are not good if you are young – the rate of people in their thirties suffering from heart disease has increased by more than 100 % in this decade.

India’s largest insurance company, SBI General Insurance, revealed further that the claims related to heart disease for people below the age of 35 years rose a massive 40 % in the period of 2016-17 compared to just a year ago.

As a doctor, I and my colleagues have known this for some time. We have seen too many young millennials (born in the 80s and early 90s) admitted in our hospitals with heart attacks. Sadly, we have watched some- fit and athletic, overweight and tired – die too, in spite of our efforts. Others survived but required angioplasties and coronary artery bypass grafts (CABG) to do so, things that were normally done in people in their fifties and sixties a generation ago.

What has changed

Yes, older generations were definitely under stress too but then most factors that lead to heart disease have gone up a clear notch with the millennial generation. These include:

  1. Insufficient exercise
  2. Obesity
  3. Stress (Professional, Social, Financial, Marital)
  4. Alcohol consumption
  5. Nicotine addiction
  6. Sleep deprivation
  7. Loneliness

Sadly, some of the things that have made our lives so simple are also the cause of our heart diseases today. With the world at our fingertips thanks to advances in computer and mobile technology, we should be truly grateful, no doubt. Unfortunately, this comes with the curse of reduced natural exercise and movement and is a trigger for obesity.

Stress has forever been the bane of mankind in all its myriad forms. For this generation though, the rat race has expanded with the world now just a fingertip away. Meeting deadlines, beating peers, holding on to one’s job, moving up the social  and professional ladder – in an Eric Segal novel, the rat race may be inspiring. In real life, that rat race is killing you. Giving up one’s sleep and family ironically with the aim of making enough money for them sounds ridiculous when you think of it. And yet, we all still do it even today. 

Easy accessibility to nicotine and alcohol has again, always been there, if we are being honest. But you need to see how it all adds up. When you find that you are ticking most of the boxes in that list above, I beseech you – take a minute and just stop what you are doing. Think and prioritize.

Choose to ACTIVELY make changes.

I am not asking you to make huge changes. Just baby steps.

  1. If you cannot find time to exercise for a significant period daily, choose to exercise for small durations throughout the day – the occasional staircase up and down, walking while talking on the phone. Every small bit helps.
  2. Get a pedometer or some similar gadgets and actively monitor your daily steps to motivate yourself to walk more.
  3. Reduce the glasses of alcohol and the cigarettes gradually (if not completely).
  4. Add a salad to your diet daily.
  5. Avoid high calorie, high sugar foods, if possible.
  6. Reduce your sodium intake.
  7. Do consider going for an annual health check-up. 
  8. Spend more time doing a ‘happy activity’ preferably with your loved ones (and I do NOT mean getting the spouse and kids to help write down computer code for your work project!)
  9. Take breaks during work time when you feel stressed. 
  10. Do not neglect your relationships for your work. Remember, you are expendable at the work place, not to those who love you.

Why am I telling you all this?

This is not just an Indian phenomenon. As confirmed by the Health Foundation think tank in their 2018 study, across the world, millennials are suffering from heart diseases and having heart related events at a far younger age than ever before in centuries. So, if you or your loved ones fall in this category, you need to understand what has changed to make you so vulnerable.

As a doctor, I don’t want to see you in a hospital bed. And trust me, neither does anyone who you matter to.

Author bio:

Anaesthesiologist Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan believes in the healing power of love and laughter but practises medicine just to be on the safe side. Winner of multiple awards including the ‘Best Blog in India for Creative Writing’ and ‘the Best Blog from Kerala’, writing at Godyears.net for 13 years paved the way for over 20 of his short stories to be published in anthologies and made him the only Indian to win First place in both Season One and Two of Write India, India’s largest literary contest.

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