Heart Attacks in Kashmir

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There was a far cry from somewhere in my neighborhood. It came out that a young man in his early twenties had fallen unconscious at his home. On arrival at the hospital, he was declared brought dead. The young man had no health problems. However, the doctors revealed that he died of a sudden heart attack.

This is not the first such queer mishap. Since the past few months, Kashmir is witnessing a steep surge in sudden deaths due to massive heart attacks in young people without any underlying disease. Earlier, ageing was considered as one of the major risk factors for heart attacks, and it was typically seen in elderly people. But now, young people are frequently falling victim to heart attacks.

There are various established causes for sudden heart attacks in young people that have been studied and reported. Sedentary lifestyle, high-calorie food and reduced physical activity are contributing to the increase in sudden heart attack in young people. However, the important factors that add to these in Kashmir are cold weather and other related socio-political issues.

Even as these issues have their role in causing massive heart attacks, the moot point is an abrupt surge in fatalities among young people due to heart attacks in the past few months. The matter of concern is that none of the established factors that are responsible for causing sudden heart attacks in young people is fairly new to Kashmir. This time the proportion of deaths due to heart attacks is far higher than just a year ago.

Besides, escalating drug addiction in young people and the impact of Covid-19 cannot be ruled out as the contributing factors for sudden heart attacks in Kashmir. While researchers around the globe are struggling to learn about Covid-19, it is understood that other than lungs, coronavirus invades heart as well. Covid-19 is a new disease and virologists are yet to provide definitive treatment and long term complications of this disease.

The studies conducted by the University of Frankfurt, Germany, and carried in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Cardiology found abnormalities in the hearts of seventy-eight percent of Covid-19 recovered patients under study. Surprisingly, most of the patients in the study had not required hospitalization for their Covid-19 disease. The study also noted that significant signs of heart damage were found in younger non-hospitalized Covid-19 patients.

A large number of studies put forward that many Covid-19 recovered patients experience some type of heart problems irrespective of any underlying cardiovascular disease. There is growing evidence that Covid-19 is also a vascular disease having the potential to injure cells and muscles of the heart. This phenomenon can form blood clots and can block the blood supply to brain, heart and lungs leading to brain stroke, heart attack and respiratory failure. Covid-19 affects the heart cells to a degree lesser than it affects the lung cells; but the matter of concern is that there is a risk that even people with no symptoms or mild Covid-19 symptoms, without any underlying co-morbidities, could develop life-threatening heart complications.

Pertinently, most of the Covid-19 cases either have no symptoms or have a mild symptom that is taken as common flu as it gets recovered of its own. A kind of a self-limiting infection. It is high time that everyone who has recovered from Covid-19 or had some mild symptoms of the respiratory tract should get screened for damage to the heart. If someone experiences easy fatigability, breathing problems, unexplained chest or abdominal pain, sweating or swelling, he/she should seek urgent medical attention. The Health Department in Kashmir should create awareness about it and seek measures to contain the situation. Nothing abnormal in today’s world remains inexplicable; there is scientific acumen to aid us.

Bottomline: Of course, mental stress and agony in Kashmiri youth—ranging from unemployment to sense of insecurity and lack of opportunities—is one of the worst risk factors for almost all the diseases likewise heart ailment…. Dil hi toe hai na sang-o-khisht, Dard say bhar na aaye kuin….  In most of the cases, it leads to drug addiction, alcoholism and smoking which inevitably contribute to sudden deaths due to heart attacks. However, in addition to all the factors that predispose to heart attacks, Covid-19 and its effect on the heart also need to be contemplated seriously. Given the fact that we in Kashmir, especially youth, lowered the guard against Covid-19 quite early and didn’t religiously follow SOPs, it becomes all the more imperative.