Smoking hastens cardiac problems, cancer in youngsters – Azera Parveen Rahman



(May 31 is World No Tobacco Day)

Abhishek Shetty led the typical life of a young employee in an IT company. A regular smoker, the 32-year-old had a hectic schedule, odd sleeping hours and irregular meals – all of which caught up with him, and he suffered a heart attack at what his doctor called a “shockingly young age”.

“Five years back such cases were unheard of. But increasingly, we have young people coming to us with cardiac problems. It’s a serious problem and smoking is a major factor,” Ravindra L. Kulkarni, cardiologist and director of Just for Hearts, an organisation for heart care, told IANS.

“Abhishek’s is a case in point. A study of his case revealed that he led a very stressful life, thanks to the nature of his work. To add to that, he smoked regularly to relieve his stress. Ultimately he had a cardiac arrest,” Kulkarni added.

An angiography revealed a blockage in one of Shetty’s main arteries, for which an angioplasty had to be done. He has now changed his lifestyle completely.

Cardiac ailments have become an increasingly common feature among people as young as in their late 20s and early 30s, and smoking is found to be one of the main contributing factors.

“Health problems that you would have normally seen in people in their sixties – like those related to the heart or lungs – you see them in young people in the age group of 30-35 these days. It’s an unhealthy trend, to say the least,” said Suchetna Das, a cardiologist.

According to Kulkarni, in the past few years there has been a 30-40 percent rise in cardiac related ailments amongst those below the age of 40. Among his patients, 30-40 percent are heavy smokers.

A number of young patients are those in high-stress and sedentary lifestyle jobs, like in BPOs and the IT sector.

Studies reveal that peer pressure and curiosity are the two most common reasons for a person to take up smoking. Most smokers also claim their regular dose of puff is a stress relaxant.

“A number of young women also take up smoking to reduce weight. The idea is that nicotine affects the appetite… you don’t feel hungry, eat less and thus lose weight. Not only is it an unhealthy way to reduce weight, but also you hardly realise when the trick becomes an addiction,” Das said.

Doctors say that most ailments begin with high blood pressure (BP).

There has been a 20-25 percent rise among youngsters complaining of high blood pressure. So, if you are young and suddenly witness high BP, it may be wise to see your doctor, said Kulkarni.

Some of the common health problems that young people are being detected with are coronary artery disease (CAD), diabetes and high blood pressure.

Not just that. Oncologists reveal that there has been a rise in cancer cases as well because of increased tobacco usage.

“Cancer, like throat cancer, among youngsters is on the rise. And exposure to tobacco in various forms is the main culprit behind this trend,” Amol Akhade, consultant oncologist at International Oncology Services, told IANS.

Sharing a smoke in hip hookah joints which are mushrooming in cities like Delhi, is another popular lifestyle trend that is simply adding to the problem, Akhade said.

“The trend of smoking hookah is adding to the risk (of cancer) and both men and women are equally at risk,” he added.

Besides strict implementation of the law that bans smoking in public places, doctors also suggest initiation of Workplace Health Promotion Programmes.

“Companies should take up the responsibility of making their employees aware of a healthy lifestyle and about the ill effects of smoking. Ultimately, a healthy, young workforce works for the best for the company,” Kulkarni said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco usage kills at least five million people every year.

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