Puneeth Rajkumar, Sidharth Shukla deaths show heart attack can kill anyone
Sidharth Shukla (left) and Puneeth Rajkumar

Sample this: the best medical care, the best doctors, the best nutritionists, prime physical condition, and 24/7 answers to every health query. None of the above could save Puneeth Rajkumar, a star loved by millions of fans across the world. As the son of Karnataka’s biggest superstar-Rajkumar-Puneeth grew up in luxury and it is unlikely that he had to struggle like a common man. Yet, at the age of 46, when he had decades of acting ahead of him, he died earlier today after a heart attack.

A few weeks ago, it was the shocking news of the death of Sidharth Shukla, another well-known Indian actor. At the age of 40, and in prime health condition (at least on the outside) the actor dropped dead. The reason? Heart attack. 

And few of us have forgotten the sickening image of Danish footballer Christian Eriksen collapsing on the pitch in front of his family and fans, seconds after making a pass. Thankfully, he lived. Other footballers who had a heart attack, however, were not so lucky.  

And this is not just a ‘first world’ problem affecting only the uber-rich. On the other end of the spectrum, in Tripura, for example, 40 teachers have allegedly died due to the psychological trauma of losing their job. Most of these teachers were the sole bread earners of their families and were below the age of 50. They had nothing to protect them, the superstars had everything to protect them. Yet, here we are. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that no amount of six-pack abs, the best food, the best living conditions and constant medical supervision can save you when stress levels go through the roof. It would be naïve to say that stress was the only factor that caused the death of Puneeth Rajkumar and Sidharth Shukla, but surely, it played a role?

If not stress, what explains heart attacks in seemingly healthy people? A bad immune system which can be the case for any person regardless of their age. But heart attacks are for the old, right? Or so we are made to believe. And this is the case worldwide. Take the United States of America, for example. 

Although Americans are suffering fewer heart attacks, the rate is dramatically increasing among those under 40. 20 per cent of people who have a heart attack are 40 or younger, a rate that has risen 2 per cent a year for 10 years, new research reports.

Even if you’re in your 20s or 30s, once you’ve had a heart attack, you’re at risk for more cardiovascular events and you have just as much risk as someone who may be older than you. Diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, family history of premature heart attack and high cholesterol were the same among older and young people who suffered a heart attack, researchers found.

And it is not as if these are the developments of the last five years or so. A simple “stress and heart attack” search on, say, YouTube, will show videos 8 or more years older. This is something that medical practitioners have been saying for decades now: stress kills. And nothing can change that. 

Here is what this article on WebMD says about the link between heart attack and stress. “The stress itself can be a problem. It raises your blood pressure, and it’s not good for your body to constantly be exposed to stress hormones. Studies also link stress to changes in the way blood clots, which makes a heart attack more likely.”

This article on the website of the University of Rochester Medical Centre says, “The hormone cortisol is released in response to stress. Studies suggest that high levels of cortisol from long-term stress can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. These are common risk factors for heart disease. This stress can also cause changes that promote the buildup of plaque deposits in the arteries. Even minor stress can trigger heart problems like poor blood flow to the heart muscle. This is a condition in which the heart doesn’t get enough blood or oxygen. And, long-term stress can affect how the blood clots. This makes the blood stickier and increases the risk of stroke.”

Did stress kill Puneeth Rajkumar and Sidharth Shukla? Maybe not. But did it contribute? Yes. Can one protect themselves from stress, anxiety and the resulting attack? Of course. But for now, the best thing one can do is to understand that nothing: food, medical support, money, physical fitness can rescue you if you do not lower your stress levels. 

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