Three years ago, IT employee Robin Robert woke up his wife in the middle of the night and asked her to drive him to the hospital. For three hours, he endured severe back pain before rushing to the hospital.
The decision saved his life as emergency doctors diagnosed Robin was suffering from a heart attack. “I couldn’t believe I was having a heart attack since I had no vices or any family history. However, I worked long hours, sometimes 12-14 at a stretch. I used to have meals at odd hours and had no time for exercise. I didn’t even realise when my lifestyle issues became so big that they threatened my life,” he said.
Post the heart attack, Robert has modified his lifestyle — he exercises everyday, takes weekly consultations with a dietitian and his wife monitors his working hours strictly. Dr Rahul Patil, interventional cardiologist, who treated Robert, said , “A large number of people I see in my practice are from IT industry. They have high performance oriented jobs, work irregular hours and sleep less. Many patients are constantly travelling in or outside country, live alone for a long time and pay less attention to food and exercise. This makes them prone to early heart attacks.”
Besides IT employees, call centre workers contribute to major chunk of heart patients in the city, said cardiologists.
Dr CN Makhale, cardiologist and co-director of cardiac cath lab, Ruby Hall Clinic said, “Call centres have erratic working hours leading to haphazard eating and sleeping hours which keep changing every week. It is against the body’s biological work and the body is always at a war-like situation. To keep awake at odd hours or kill boredom, majority of these patients took to chain smoking, which is extremely harmful.”
On one hand as doctors say IT and BPO employees are at maximum risk, a recent study conducted by ASSOCHAM released on the occasion of ‘World Heart Day’ said nearly 72% corporate employees are more prone to cardiovascular diseases. It lists high stress levels, strenuous schedules, lack of physical activity and poor eating habits as main reasons. However, it acknowledged night shift workers at 52% higher risk than day workers of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Chief cardiologist at Jehangir Hospital, Dr JS Duggal, agreed with the data that corporate employees, especially those in marketing profiles, chasing targets and stringent deadlines were often falling victim to cardiac ailments due to irregular eating and sleeping hours along with high stress levels.
A recent study by British Heart Foundation pointed out that a highly demanding job but having little control over it could be a deadly combination. In the study where nearly 2 lakh people were screened, found “job strain” was linked to 23% of the sufferers.
“Any person whose job demands long work hours, no time for sleeping and eating or exercise, these studies should serve as a wake up call. Such persons must take break from work as you can get the job back but not life. Exercise is a must and cut down heavily on drinking and smoking. People don’t take lifestyle modification seriously until it hits them. And it does hit them hard,” said Dr Duggal.