Last week, India woke up to the unfortunate news of Bollywood singer KK’s untimely demise after his concert in Kolkata’s Nazrul Mancha. The cause was a heart attack. He was just 53. Last year, Kannada actor Puneeth Rajkumar (46) died due to the same reason and so did other artistes like Sidharth Shukla (40), Mirzapur actor Brahma Mishra (36), and Mandira Bedi’s husband and producer Raj Kaushal (50). Over the years, the rate of heart attacks in young people has increased. According to a study, a heart attack is now common in people aged 40 and below. But why are young people at risk of a heart attack, despite the longevity of life has increased in India, and what is causing the death of young people, especially celebrities?
Dr Amit P Gawande, Consultant Pulmonologist and Critical Care Specialist, explains that there are three reasons why young people are at heart attack risk. “Primary reason is undiagnosed higher blood pressure because until someone has a problem no one gets it checked, especially when you are young. The second reason is smoking. India has the highest number of smokers and it certainly affects your heart. The third is the lifestyle and stress,” says Dr Gawande.
But celebrities are known to follow a healthy lifestyle. So what’s causing early deaths? “That’s what we assume that they are leading a healthy lifestyle. Just exercise is not enough. They live under immense stress and they follow different working hours. Lack of sleep, excessive drinking, and late nights are part of a celebrity lifestyle. And that is hampering them more than the exercise is doing any good. So there is no balance,” insists the doctor.
Veteran actress Sudha Chandran seconds Dr Gawande and says that actors are under a lot of stress. “It’s sad that we are losing young actors and stress could be the reason. We are taking stress to become successful and then to maintain that success we are more stressed. It is definitely affecting us. As celebrities, we need to draw a line and know the difference between personal and professional life. I have been working round the clock. However, with age, I have decided to take it slow. It is a vicious circle which will keep on going. Eventually, by the time you become successful and start making money, you won’t be there to enjoy the fruits of your hard labour,” she says and adds that actors need to be less competitive. “I believe one should not get into the competitive frame because what is yours will come your way. Let’s have fun when we are working and enjoy it. Don’t take stress back home.”
Filmmaker Gaurav Panjwani points out that technicians in the industry also work for long hours and they too have died due to heart attacks at a young age. “It is alarming and within the industry, we need to respect personal life and less working hours. There is stress. Irrespective of people maintaining a good lifestyle and exercising, you can’t compensate for the amount of stress you take. Technicians too need to take it slow. We see sometimes they spend days working in studios and this will collapse one day. Celebrities need to make mental health a priority. If someone says not feeling like working then they should be respected,” the filmmaker opines.
Experts also point out that a well-built body is not a mark of good health. All these lifestyle changes are increasing the risk diseases such as diabetes and hypertension even in the people who are in their 20s and 30s.
Actor Sharad Malhotra too wants celebrities to pay attention to their health. “Everyone will say their work is quite hectic and stressful. It’s a universal fact for all the industries if you talk to the employees. We have lost many young people from the industry due to heart attacks. I feel more than proper diet and exercise, it’s about the timing and realising what’s happening to your body. If you feel different and your body is sending a message, you must acknowledge it and react immediately. For example, if you are getting exhausted quickly, you need to know what’s causing it and fix it. It’s easy to say that there is a lot of stress in the industry,” he signs off.
Dr Maneesha Nayar, a consultant psychologist from Chennai also agrees that stress has a lot to do with heart diseases. “Young people have a lot of stress – the stress of performance, break-ups, career, growth, and so many other things. They think too much and to beat that stress they are either drinking or smoking. They follow unhealthy eating habits and patterns. This in turn causes stress in the heart, leading to heart attack, cardiac arrest, or arrhythmia."
The World Economic Forum has projected that 50 percent of people who die at a young age die of diabetes and heart disease. This is alarming and Clinical psychologist Monika Sharma tells us that depression, anxiety, and social isolation can also lead to a heart attack. “Strong or negative emotions like hostility, anger, depression, and anxiety are also a reason for coronary heart disease. People with coronary heart disease have difficulty in coping with stress and depression and that ultimately affects their heart health,” explains the clinical psychologist and suggests that one should always strive for positive emotions, especially hope to contribute to heart health. “Staying happy, thinking positive, and staying in touch with friends and family will lead to lower levels of coronary heart disease and other diseases. In addition, for those who have a family history of heart disease, it is recommended to have regular checkups,” she concludes.