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Overexertion, Co-morbidities: What Explains Heart Attacks While Playing Garba?

FIT reached out to cardiologists to understand what precautions we can take to prevent heart attacks.

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On 21 October, 17-year-old Veer Shah had gone to play garba at an event in Gujarat's Kapadvanj. While playing garba, his nose started bleeding.

Shah felt ill and was taken to a hospital where he passed away due to a heart attack.

The medical professional who treated Shah, Dr Aayush Patel, told the media:

"A 17-year-old boy, Veer Shah, was playing Garba at the Garba ground in Kapadvanj when he complained of dizziness and became unresponsive. A team of volunteers at the scene immediately attended on him and performed a cardio-respiratory resuscitation."
Dr Aayush Patel to ANI

Dr Patel added, "We monitored his vitals but found no pulse. There was no response and signs of respiration. He was given three cycles of CPR. We shifted him to a hospital by ambulance. However, he was declared dead at the hospital."

Shah isn't alone in this unfortunate story. According to media reports, at least 10 people have passed away due to sudden heart attacks while playing garba in Gujarat state in the last two days. FIT hasn't been able to independently verify this number.

Why are seemingly healthy people who are going to play garba suffering from heart attacks? FIT reached out to cardiologists to understand.

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Why do people experience heart attacks while playing garba?

Dr Atul Mathur, Executive Director of Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Okhla Road, New Delhi, says that there could be multiple reasons why people could have experienced heart attacks while playing garba.

  • The person could have had an underlying heart condition like soft plaques in coronary arteries.

  • They could be over-exerted after dancing and their body could have been stressed due to the high intensity of the activity.

  • They might not have been well hydrated.

  • The person could have experienced body stress due to dieting or after having fasted all day.

All of these reasons could have put pressure on the person’s heart and caused a sudden block formation in the heart.

“The person could also have irritability in the heart muscle due to hypertrophy. In such a case, any exertion can cause the heart to stop.”
Dr Atul Mathur

Dr Sameer Gupta, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Metro Hospital, Noida, agrees. He tells FIT:

“In high intensity situations, people who have a family history of heart attacks or have any kind of pre-existing health conditions can also be at risk.”

In such situations, age might not be much of a preventive factor, say the doctors – meaning that anyone experiencing symptoms could be at risk of a heart attack.

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What are the symptoms that people might have before having a sudden heart attack in such instances?

According to Dr Gupta and Dr Mathur, these are the symptoms that people might experience before a heart attack:

  • Chest pain

  • Discomfort anywhere in the body

  • Body pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sweating profusely

  • Dizziness or light-headedness

  • Nausea

Dr Gupta tells FIT, “These symptoms might be the sign that the patient needs to sit and get some rest. They should also be seeking medical help.”

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What are the precautions that people should be taking?

Doctors tell FIT that these are the precautions that people can take:

  • Stop when you experience any symptom, even if it's just tiredness, or heaviness in your chest, or fatigue.

  • Stay hydrated. 

  • Don’t go in areas that are overcrowded. 

  • Make sure you have the space to breathe.

  • Eat properly.

But, Dr Mathur adds that what also needs to be done is that the people organising these events should have:

  • On-call doctors available

  • First aid rooms

  • Emergency options or ambulances ready

Dr Gupta and Dr Mathur also both say that while these are precautions you can take at the moment, it’s also recommended to get regularly screened if you’re at high risk or have a family history of any comorbidity.

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Did the government or event organisers take notice of this?

The Gujarat government has issued a high alert for all public hospitals and community health centres that are close to the places where garba events are being held. 

According to a circular issued by the Health and Family Welfare Department, the organisers had been informed prior to the festival too that they need to have ambulances and medical teams present at the venue. Now the authorities have again asked them to ensure medical facilities at the venue.

This comes after multiple casualties happened at garba venues. On 20 October, 28-year-old Ravi Panchal passed away while playing garba in Ahmedabad.

On the same day, a 55-year-old man passed away in Vadodara. Shankar Rana felt uneasy and collapsed while he was playing garba at Sanskruti Enclave. 

13-year-old Vaibhav Soni too died of a “suspected heart failure” when he was returning from a garba event on his cycle in Dabhoi. He had complained of chest pain before passing.

The other reports that emerged from Gujarat mentioned a rickshaw driver and a central jail staffer in Rajkot who passed away due to suspected cardiac arrests. 

Not just that, according to PTI, ambulances have received over 500 calls during Navratri for cardiac issues, and over 600 calls by people who were finding it difficult to breathe. 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Health   Garba   Health News 

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