A team of Indian doctors has traced the genetic link of heart attack in young people, which is said to be often missed even by cardiologists. If detected in time, this genetic link can drastically reduce the cases of heart attacks in young people.

The doctors of Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH)—Dr J.P.S. Sawhney, chairman of cardiology department, Dr I.C. Verma, chairman of genetics department and genetics student Nitika Setia—have conducted a research to identify Familial Hypercholestrolemia (FH), a genetic disorder which results in high level of cholesterol and leads to premature heart attacks.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Dr Sawhney, who has specialised in “clinical and preventive cardiology”, said FH is grossly under-diagnosed and under-treated, though it is found in one out of 250 to 500 cases. “Only 1% of such cases are diagnosed. Doctors don’t pick such cases. In the last about three years, we have got about 450 cases of heart attacks in youth, and out of them about 80 had FH,” he said.

“Whenever we come to know about any heart attack case, we ask the patient to get a test of his/her family members done. The test is being done at AIIMS, SGRH, and also in Bangalore. Some private laboratories are also planning to start the test,” he said. The research findings are being sent to international health journals.

The person, on whom the test is conducted, may or may not be having the symptoms of increased cholesterol, but it is always advisable to get the test conducted so that the genetic disorder, if it is present, may be detected in advance and early treatment can be started accordingly.

He said there is need to make people and physicians aware of the disorder so that it could be detected in advance. “There have been cases when family members of a heart patient do not cooperate. They seem to be having problems checked since they do not have any heart disease. But it is always better to rule out the possibility of carrying the FH to avoid any future problem,” he said.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), which is commonly called heart attack, is common across the world. However, in India, it comes 5-8 years earlier than the rest of the world. Studies say that in India, 40% of heart attack cases occur in young people (less than 55 years of age in men and less than 60 years of age in women).

According to Dr Sawhney, the root cause of young Myocardial Infection (MI), or heart attack, is lipid (bad cholesterol), diabetes, blood pressure, smoking, stress, central obesity, lack of exercise and bad food habits. These give rise to bad cholesterol in the body, which further causes blockage of heart. Citing recent studies, he said ghee and butter are not that dangerous for heart, provided these are taken in limited quantities.


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