'Spike in strokes, cardiac arrest among young since Covid', says study

Prof K Srinath Reddy, honorary distinguished professor at Public Health Foundation of India, said Covid-19 infection is associated with a generalised inflammatory response.
Representational Image: Most strokes are not painful. Eighty percent of strokes are caused by a blood clot in the brain and usually do not hurt, although some do...
Representational Image: Most strokes are not painful. Eighty percent of strokes are caused by a blood clot in the brain and usually do not hurt, although some do...

More young people are experiencing brain stroke, cardiac arrest, and heart attacks in India since the Covid-19 outbreak. Now, the latest survey has confirmed that there has been a 21 per cent increase in people who have had one or more of their close contacts experience brain stroke, cardiac arrest, heart attack and cancer acceleration in the past year.

The survey, which surveyed over 11,000 people in 322 districts in India, said that 72 per cent reported one or more individuals in their close social network – extended family, friends, neighbours and colleagues – experiencing medical conditions like brain stroke, cardiac arrest, heart attack and cancer acceleration in the last three-and-a-half-years post March 2020 following the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak in India.

The survey by LocalCircles, India’s leading community social media platform, also found that the percentage of citizens with such cases amongst their close contacts increased by 21% from October 2022 to October 2023.

The data showed that 32% of surveyed indicated that one-two in their close network has suffered from these medical conditions. 

In comparison, 25% indicated at least three people closely linked to them faced these health issues, and 10% of respondents said seven individuals closely connected to them reported brain stroke, cardiac arrest, heart attacks and cancer acceleration in these three years since the Covid-19 outbreak.

While 5% indicated that ten or more people in their close social network reported such health issues, only 28% of citizens surveyed were thankful that no one in their immediate social network had severe health conditions in the last 3.5 years.

“In our October 2022 study, 51% of people had indicated having one or more close contacts with the onset of a severe medical condition since Covid. But in the last 12 months, this has risen to 72% of respondents having one or more close contact with the onset of severe medical conditions,” said Sachin Taparia, Founder of LocalCircles.

“With the number of cases of stroke reported in young people in the last 12 months, the need of the hour is for the Union Health Ministry to investigate this thoroughly and find the root cause, as most people are unwilling to accept reports that conclude sedentary lifestyle as the general cause for stroke-related deaths in young,” Taparia told this paper.

According to Prof. K. Srinath Reddy, Honorary Distinguished Professor, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and its past president, “It is not surprising that deaths due to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease have risen during the pandemic, with lingering effects even now.” 

He said Covid-19 infection is associated with a generalised inflammatory response which can be severe in serious illness. 

“This is associated with increased risk of blood clotting in arteries and veins, resulting in heart attacks and brain strokes. It can also lead to diabetes and cancers. Virus vector vaccines too have been shown to have a risk of blood clotting in a minority of recipients.” 

Recently, as many as 10 deaths, including of a teenager, due to cardiac arrest was reported within 24 hours from the annual Garba festival during Navratri in Gujarat.

According to Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, Co-Chairman of the National Indian Medical Association (IMA) COVID Task Force, studies from other countries have shown an increased risk of cardiovascular events among people who have had Covid-19 in the past.

However, he said, there are no studies from India that specifically compare the incidence of cardiovascular events before and since the pandemic among people who did not require hospitalisation, representing the vast majority of Covid patients.

A nationwide study from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on hospitalised Covid-19 patients in India has revealed an increased risk of death over the several months following hospital discharge.

According to Global Burden of Diseases (GBD), India bore most of the burden of stroke, with 68.6% of incidences of stroke, 70.9% of stroke deaths, and 77.7% of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) lost.

The GBD 2010 stroke project showed that 5.2 million (31%) strokes were witnessed in children aged less than 20 years.

According to a recent joint report by the World Stroke Organization and the Lancet Neurology Commission, stroke deaths are expected to surge from 6.6 million in 2020 to a daunting 9.7 million by 2050.

It said that stroke could lead to nearly 10 million deaths annually by 2050 and will mainly affect low-and middle-income countries (LMICs).

By 2050, it is estimated that the contribution of stroke deaths in LMICs will increase from 86% to 91%, the report, in which ICMR also collaborated, said.

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