(Written by Dr Abhishek Gupta, Assistant Professor of Adult Cardiology at Amrita Hospital, Faridabad)
International Youth Day 2023: Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) have traditionally been associated with ageing populations. However, there is a growing concern regarding the prevalence of CVD risk factors and manifestations among today’s youth. Sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary habits, obesity, smoking, substance abuse, stress, and inadequate physical education are impacting cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular diseases, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, and stroke, are the leading cause of mortality worldwide.
The aim of this article is to shed light on the cardiovascular health challenges faced by young individuals and their implications for public health.
Table of Contents
Modern technology and societal changes have contributed to sedentary lifestyles among youth. Prolonged periods of sitting and reduced physical activity have been linked to increased body weight, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and endothelial dysfunction. These factors collectively contribute to the development of atherosclerosis and the early onset of CVDs.
Poor Dietary Habits
Unhealthy dietary patterns, characterised by high intakes of processed foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, and saturated and trans fats, have become prevalent among today’s youth. Such diets are associated with obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and insulin resistance. These metabolic abnormalities further amplify the risk of CVDs in early adulthood.
The global obesity epidemic has reached alarming proportions, affecting both developed and developing nations. Childhood obesity, in particular, has risen significantly. Obese children are at a higher risk of developing CVDs, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and dyslipidemia. The adverse cardiometabolic effects of obesity often persist into adulthood, further exacerbating the burden of CVDs.
Smoking and Substance Abuse
Tobacco use remains a major preventable cause of CVDs. Smoking in youth is associated with endothelial dysfunction, arterial stiffness, accelerated atherosclerosis, and an increased risk of myocardial infarction. Furthermore, substance abuse, including alcohol and illicit drugs, poses additional cardiovascular risks, such as arrhythmias, cardiomyopathies, and infectious endocarditis.
Psychosocial stressors, such as academic pressure, social media influence, and family conflicts, are prevalent in the lives of many young individuals. Chronic stress activates the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammation. Prolonged exposure to stress can contribute to the development of hypertension, atherosclerosis, and adverse cardiac events.
Inadequate Physical Education
Reduced emphasis on physical education in schools has resulted in limited opportunities for structured physical activity among youth. Inadequate physical education programmes contribute to reduced cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and endurance. This, in turn, increases the risk of obesity, metabolic abnormalities, and CVDs in young individuals.
Excessive screen time, including television, computer, and smartphone use, has become a significant health concern. Increased screen time is associated with sedentary behaviour, decreased physical activity, and unhealthy snacking habits, all of which can negatively impact cardiovascular health.
Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive approach involving parents, schools, healthcare professionals, and policymakers. Strategies may include promoting healthy eating habits, increasing opportunities for physical activity, implementing comprehensive physical education programmes, educating youth about the risks of smoking and substance abuse, and promoting stress management techniques. By addressing these challenges early on, we can help improve cardiovascular health outcomes among today’s youth.
(Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs, and views expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this website are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs, and views of ABP News Network Pvt Ltd.)
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