Heart attacks are commonly associated with older and/or overweight persons, however, this life-threatening condition can also occur in younger persons and those with normal body mass index.
Heart attacks are on the rise in patients aged 20-30 years of age. Not long ago, it was rare for anyone younger than 40 years of to have a heart attack. Now 1 in 5 heart attack patients are younger than 40 years of age.
The troubling fact is further supported with a survey conducted in the United States of America between the years 2000-2016, showing that heart attack rate increased by 2% every year in this younger age groups.
Patients who have a heart attack in their 20s or 30s face the same risks as older patients. Once they experience the first heart attack, they have the same chance of dying from a second major heart event or a stroke regardless of the age.
A heart attack happens when the supply and flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart is suddenly disrupted or blocked. This can cause serious heart muscle damage and is potentially life threatening.
If a large portion of the heart is damaged, it can cause this powerful muscular organ to seize beating which is otherwise known as Cardiac Arrest. This can lead to Sudden Cardiac Death.
Let’s highlights some of the risk factor that may cause a heart attack in younger people.
Diabetes is a key risk factor for an early heart attack.
A person who is diabetic is 2-4 times more likely to die from heart disease compared with adults who don’t have diabetes. The problem develops when blood sugar is not controlled well enough to keep it within a healthy range. High blood sugar damages blood vessels, which increases the chance of fats building up in arteries and causing atherosclerosis.
Patients with diabetes are also more likely to have other chronic health diseases that significantly increase the risk of a heart attack, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Overweight and obesity are key players in heart attacks.
Being overweight has a significant influence on the risk of having a heart attack for several reasons. For starters, carrying extra weight places a high demand on the heart. Obesity alone makes a person more likely to have a heart attack even if the person healthy.
However, patients who are overweight and obese often have other health conditions that detract from their heart health, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Another major risk factor for a heart attack is Smoking cigarettes and vaping.
Of all the things that contribute to heart attacks in young adults, smoking cigarettes is one of the top risk factors. The risk of a heart attack increases in direct proportion to the number of cigarettes a person smokes. Smoking one pack a day more than doubles the risk for a heart attack compared with nonsmokers.
While cigarette smoking has a much higher chance of causing a heart attack compared with vaping, a person is still not off the hook if he or she vapes. E-cigarettes contain nicotine and other toxic compounds that accelerate the heart rate and raise blood pressure. A recent study found that vaping makes someone 34% more likely to have a heart attack compared with non-vapers.
Substance abuse takes a toll on the heart.
Experts are still studying the effect of marijuana on the heart, but they know that it increases heart rate and raises risk of having a heart attack. Cocaine’s impact on the heart, however, is well established. Cocaine increases heart rate, tightens blood vessels, and raises blood pressure, all of which are associated with heart attacks.
Many heart attacks are preventable because one can change the risk factors by making lifestyle changes and seeking medical help if needed, to protect one’s health.
Medical experts such as cardiologists, weight management experts, and physical therapists can provide holistic health care that addresses all forms of cardiovascular risk factors regardless of age.
But like its said, prevention is better than cure, so making the right lifestyle choices early in life can prevent one from falling victim to this life-threatening condition.