Cardiologists on why doctors could be at higher risk of heart attack; suggest heart care tips
Odd working hours, stressful work situations, increased exposure to infections, can all put doctors at increased risk of heart attack.
The cases of heart attack are on rise in recent years even among youth. Heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases are being reported in young, middle-aged, elderly - people of age groups and walks of life. Dr Gaurav Gandhi, a noted cardiologist from Jamnagar, Gujarat died of heart attack at the age of 41 early Tuesday morning, as per media reports. This has shocked people at large and those from medical fraternity. We asked cardiologists whether or not physicians are more at risk of heart attacks and many of them agreed that work pressure, stress, exposure to infections at hospitals, unhealthy lifestyle can all contribute to rise in cases of heart diseases in doctors. (Also read: 8 heart attack signs and symptoms people should not ignore)
"Like any other human, a doctor or a cardiologist is at a risk for a heart attack because of stress, sedentary lifestyle and irregular dietary habits besides conventional risk factors like high incidence of high BP, cholesterol and blood sugar. The major risk factor according to me is lack of exercise and not able to do regular preventive checks," says Dr Sanjeev Gera, Director - Cardiology, Fortis Hospital Noida.
"It was very shocking that Gaurav Gandhi, the cardiologist in Gujarat died at a very young age of 41 year of age. The heart attack in young is quite common now in India. More than 50% of heart attacks are occurring less than 50 years of age in India. Doctors no doubt are aware of all the diseases, risk factors, of heart attack. But still if we see the studies, the average lifespan of a doctor in India is around 59 years only as compared to the general population who have average lifespan of 68 years or so," says Dr Gajinder Kr Goyal, Director - Cardiology at Marengo Asia Hospitals, Sector 16, Faridabad NCR.
RISK FACTORS OF HEART ATTACK FOR DOCTORS
"The job profile of a doctor is quite stressful because they have to take decisions about critical patients within seconds and not about the work pressure, lot of mental pressure is there on the doctor for the well-being of their patients. And in this process of taking care of their patients many times they ignore their health; regular check-ups and many times they also ignore sometimes the subtle symptoms or minor symptoms thinking that this may not be related to heart or this may not be related to other organ diseases. Medical professions are highly burdened in India, it is the time to destress medical professionals," says Dr Goyal, adding, "they (doctors) should take more breaks and should do regular check-ups and not shy away from taking consultation from their fellow doctors, their colleagues, if they have some symptoms and check it early."
Dr Vivek Chaturvedi, Head, Department of Cardiology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad agreed and said that it's true that physicians, to some extent, are more susceptible to developing chronic diseases, particularly heart disease, and there are multiple reasons for this.
"If we consider a broader perspective, risk factors for heart disease include smoking, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol (including elevated levels of bad cholesterol), obesity, and a family history of the condition. In addition, emerging factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical activity, and the demanding nature of physicians' work can contribute to their vulnerability to these risk factors. It is not surprising that surveys conducted among medical students and physicians in India have revealed a high prevalence of lifestyle-related risk factors. Furthermore, the time constraints in hospitals often result in quick and potentially unhealthy food choices, which further contribute to this trend," said Dr Chaturvedi.
"Another significant concern is the development of narrowing (constrictions) within the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart. Certain triggers can cause these narrowings to rupture, exposing the accumulated substances within them, including fat cells, to the bloodstream. This process can lead to the formation of blood clots, ultimately resulting in a complete blockage known as a heart attack. It is increasingly recognized that extreme mental and physical stress, as well as recent infections, contribute to the occurrence of these heart attacks and the rupture of arterial constrictions," the expert added.
"Although conclusive data is still lacking, it is apparent that physicians experience a higher prevalence of three factors: extreme physical stress, mental stress, and infections. The stress associated with caring for sick individuals, the sometimes challenging and hostile work environment, long working hours, and increased exposure to infections due to frequent patient contact —all contribute to this heightened vulnerability. Consequently, there is a concerning rise in unfortunate cases among physicians," said Dr Chaturvedi.
NEED TO ADDRESS STRESS
"Stress has become a major risk factor nowadays, but people are not giving enough attention to stress reduction in the body. Stress management is not seen as crucial as the prevention of other risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, family history, and smoking. We as cardiologists, experience lots of stress- working at odd hours, facing very stressful situations while dealing with critical patients, and dealing with attending people who are panicky and anxious about the patient’s condition.
Whenever there is a heart attack or treatment of myocardial infarction, the treatment is primary angioplasty. This treatment procedure could be stress-inducing when done at odd hours of the day.
Sometimes, we as cardiologists are ignorant about our own symptoms. CAD or heart attacks are multi-factorial. At times we try to focus on our diet and do regular exercises, but due to other risk factors, it is not possible to always be able to prevent a heart attack. There should be a complete approach to prevent the development of cardiac events or coronary heart disease. Pollution, stress, and working till late hours at night have become major risk factors for heart disorders," says Dr Bhupendra Singh, Consultant- Cardiology, Manipal Hospital Ghaziabad.