Dubai: The shocking death of Manjunath Naidu, one of Dubai’s popular stand-up comedians, during a live show last Friday, has raised several health concerns, especially among young professionals from the Indian subcontinent.
Health studies conducted globally have indicated that people from the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) have a genetic predisposition for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) at a much younger age than others.
Indians die 10 years earlier of heart disease than other populations in the world, according to these studies.
One report published in the Vascular Health journal by Indian researchers Meenakshi Kumar and Nirmal Kumar Ganguly says that young Indians in the age group of 35-45 years are predisposed to premature CAD and die of heart disease 10-15 years earlier compared to other populations in the rest of the world.
An Interheart study conducted by Canadian doctor Salim Yousef, published in the Lancet in 2004, points out that more than 80 per cent of the burden of Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) is taken on by people from low income groups.
It is a well- known fact that Indians worldwide have a genetic propensity to heart disease. Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all and yet, an individual gets a sudden heart attack.
Countries from the Indian subcontinent feature prominently in this list.
Commenting on this trend of premature CAD, Dr Brajesh Mittal, interventional cardiologist at Medcare Hospital, told Gulf News: “It is a well- known fact that Indians worldwide have a genetic propensity to heart disease. Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all and yet, an individual gets a sudden heart attack.”
What is a heart attack?
“A heart attack is a sudden rupture of a blockage that blocks off an artery, causing blood supply to the heart to considerably reduce. Sometimes this blockage may not be significant and yet when it ruptures like a volcano it sends out the clot that blocks the artery. Immediate medical help can save a person’s life,” explained Dr Mittal.
During a heart attack in the first few seconds, there is a sudden rise in the heartbeat. That’s when an individual feels dizzy and then as blood supply is reduced, the person loses consciousness.
These two-three minutes are known as the golden minutes when Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and use of adefibrillator can immediately restart the heart. However, delay here can prove to be fatal, added Dr Mittal.
In the case of Naidu, he was doing a stand-up act on anxiety and his friends who were watching the act thought that his falling to the ground was part of the act and reached out only after three-four minutes when they realised he needed help.
Causes of premature CAD
The reason for a high incidence of premature heart disease among Indians is partly genetic and partly lifestyle related.
“Genetically our cholesterol proportions are skewered. As per our genetics, Indians tend to have low High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), which is the good cholesterol.
Dr Mittal added: “In the West, Caucasians may have a high reading of the Low Density LipProtein (LDL) or bad cholesterol, but their HDL is equally high. In our case, our skewered lipids might be the culprit.”
Indians typically suffer from a cluster of symptoms — low HDL, high triglycerides, abdominal obesity, high fasting blood sugar — which together is called the metabolic syndrome. These factors highly accelerate CAD.
People from the Indian subcontinent are also low on physical activity in general. They have a propensity to have meals rich in carbohydrates, dairy and fat, all of which add to the unfolding heart disease story.
Besides that, high mental stress that activates the release of cortisol in the blood stream, consumption of energy drinks, smoking, irregular sleeping hours and sleep deprivation, which are the bane of a modern lifestyle, become triggers for heart disease.
Dr Mittal advises that people from the Indian subcontinent do a complete lipid profile test and fasting blood glucose at least once in five years from the age of 20 and once a year after the age of 40. “If the reading is normal they need not worry. If the reading shows some abnormalities, we follow a scoring system and look at all the reading objectively to analyse the risk factors. If the individual after 30 shows tendencies of hypertension, high triglycerides, impaired fasting glucose, has some family history, then we alert him well in advance. We provide dietary advice and exercise tips to tweak the lifestyle and monitor the individual with tests repeated every year.”
Dubai theatre community mourns loss
Manjunath Mango Naidu was born in Abu Dhabi and has lived all his life in the UAE. After his parents expired and his brother moved away from the UAE, the theatre community was his family.
A certified hypnotherapist, Naidu found his true calling in standup comedy and for the last seven years had his audience in splits with perfect timing and his ability to see the funny side of life.
His colleagues, who are in shock, tried to locate the brother with whom Naidu had not been in touch for long. He was traced in Hong Kong and friends are trying to get a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from him to be able to carry out Naidu’s last rites in Dubai.
“We may not have been blood relatives, but Manju belonged to the theatre and arts community in Dubai. We had spent all the happy and trying times together. We are working closely with the Indian Consulate to get the NOC from the brother and once we get the police clearance, we will carry out the final rites here. It is only apt that we give this final farewell to our beloved brother,” said a grief-stricken friend.
Call for support group
Fellow comedian Salman Z. Qureshi, who was a close friend of Naidu’s, said the business of stand-up can be a ‘highly stressful’ job.
“Manju did suffer from post-performance stress, as do many stand-ups in the business. But the truth is stand-up comedy can take its toll on stress levels, especially if you don’t keep it in check. Standing there on stage, isolated, is a fact of the job. Manju’s death has been a rude awakening for the whole community.”
Aked whether there is a need for support groups that can help with job stress, Qureshi said, “It’s a conversation the community now needs to have. Ironically, Manju would always be the first one to step in and help people. He was a hypnotherapist and a business coach earlier. And even though he wasn’t pursuing this as a full-time career anymore, he was always at hand to help and counsel someone when needed.”