If you are young and at times experience sudden weakness, perspiration or shortness of breath - do not regard it as just a 'panic attack'. Health experts share that they've seen a sudden rise in young patients suffering from cardiac arrhythmia, a disorder of the heart rate or heart rhythm.“Numbers have gone up. The awareness has also driven young patients seeking help for their earlier diagnosed panic attacks which turn out to be arrhythmia and a completely treatable condition if caught well in time,” says Dr Vanita Arora, head (cardiac electrophysiology lab and arrhythmia services) at Max Healthcare Super Specialty Institute in New Delhi.Besides being a congenital condition for some, experts blame the increased risk of this disorder on bad eating habits, smoking, binge drinking, lack of exercise, consumption of soda-laden and energy drinks and stress. “I've seen that most youngsters do not drink enough water but they can easily can gulp down three to five bottles or cans of soft drinks or energy drinks everyday. These may act as a trigger for arrhythmia.” she said.Moreover, the incidence of smoking has increased dramatically among the youth -- in both men and women. “Smoking increases the incidence of ectopics (extra or skipped heartbeat) which can trigger cardiac arrhythmia. Binging on alcohol can also cause arrhythmia,” she cautions.Stress is another factor that can trigger the same. Take the case of 23-year-old emergency nurse Rakhi. “I had just finished an electrophysiology (EP) procedure - a test that records the electrical activity and the electrical pathways of heart - in the cath-lab when Rakhi came to see me,” Dr Arora recalls.“Waiting outside my OPD clinic, she had pushed herself to a corner and was experiencing 'panic attack' symptoms at that time. On a hunch, I placed my hand on her pulse and figured that her pulse was racing at 200 beats per minute and blood pressure was very low,” she said.The diagnosis was done. The doctor shifted her to the EP cath lab. “I did her EP study (which does not take more than 45 minutes) and located the problem which was causing her heart beat rise from normal 70-90 beats per minutes to 200 beats per minute,” Dr Arora said. Free from her “panic attacks,” Rakhi is now serving patients whole-heartedly.According to Dr Manohar Sakhare, interventional cardiologist at Columbia Asia Hospital in Pune, young Indians today are at a great risk of developing cardiac arrhythmia. There are two types of arrhythmia. One is supraventricular tachycardia (rapid heart rhythm in upper chambers of the heart) and is generally called atrial fibrillation. The second is ventricular tachycardia (that occurs in bottom chambers of the heart) and is called ventricular fibrillation which generally occurs in patients with coronary heart disease (CAD).“Ventricular arrhythmia is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in the young population these days,” Dr Sakhare said. Diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome obesity and sedentary lifestyle are among the reasons for developing ventricular arrhythmia. “Diet is a crucial factor. Earlier, our diet were fibre-rich but now it has more of junk food with high carbohydrate, saturated and trans fats content,” Dr Sakhare laments. At Mumbai's Nanavati Super Specialty Hospital, world renowned cardiologist Dr Lekha Pathak is also witnessing more young Indians in their 30s and 40s coming to her for cardiac consultation.(10 Things You Must Eat for a Healthy Heart)Recently, British researchers found that in some cases, changes in body temperature can also trigger irregular heartbeat. “The change in body temperature can affect the rhythm of heartbeat. Even normal fever or hypothermia, where the body records an abnormally low temperature, can affect the heartbeat rhythm,” says Dr TS Kler, executive director of Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in New Delhi.Frequent anxiety episodes can also trigger irregular heartbeat. “Keep a stress-free atmosphere for study and at workplace, avoid fatty foods and do regular exercise,” Dr Pathak advises. Food rich in Omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce atrial fibrillation. “This is one of the anti-oxidant benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. Cholesterol-controlling medicines also do the same,” Dr Arora informs.Quit tobacco and alcohol. Avoid saturated, transfats and processed food. Eat more vegetables, fruits and salads instead. Add brisk walking for 30 minutes to your schedule and try to get seven to eight hours of sleep for maintain a healthy heart, say experts.
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