Yes, Heart Attacks Can Happen in Young People, Too

While heart disease mortality is decreasing, it still remains the number one killer among men and women in the United States. In fact, heart attacks claim more than 100,000 American lives each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Many people mistakenly think of a heart attack as a condition that only affects older adults. Though over 80 percent of people who die of coronary heart disease are at least 65 years old, heart attacks can happen much earlier in life, too. 

Heart Attacks in Young People: The Changing Face of Heart Disease

While heart attacks are uncommon among people younger than 55, the numbers are climbing as the rates of obesity and diabetes rise in the United States.

Today, more than one-third of American adults are considered obese, while approximately 25 million Americans are living with diabetes – 90 percent of which are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Both major risk factors for heart disease, obesity and diabetes are considered national epidemics. Obesity and diabetes are deeply intertwined with cardiovascular disease, affecting more people at younger ages than at any point in our nation’s history.

Heart Attack Risk Factors You Can Control

The good news is that many heart attack risk factors, including obesity and Type 2 diabetes, are related to specific lifestyle choices and are largely preventable and controllable. The earlier you adopt these healthy lifestyle changes, the more likely you are to reduce your risk of developing heart disease in your lifetime:

  • Quit or don’t start smoking
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Manage diabetes and blood sugar levels
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Develop a healthy diet
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week

Heart Attack Risk Factors You Can't Control

Unfortunately, there are some heart attack risk factors for which you simply can’t control. If you identify with any of the following heart attack risk factors, it is important that you consult your primary care provider to monitor your health and learn about your options:

  • Age – The risk for heart disease, including heart attack, increases for men after the age of 45 and for women after age 55.
  • Family History – Having a family history of heart disease increases a person’s risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. 
  • Race and Ethnicity – Research suggests that African Americans are generally more likely to develop heart disease compared to Caucasians.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Young People

Because most young people do not believe they are at risk for heart attacks, they tend to delay going to the hospital when experiencing heart attack symptoms – potentially leading to permanent heart damage or, even worse, death. No matter what your age, do not neglect the warning signs of heart attack:

  • Mild or severe chest or stomach discomfort that can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, pain, indigestion or heartburn
  • Discomfort or pain in other parts of the upper body, including one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, cold sweats and vomiting or fatigue (especially in women)

If you or someone around you is experiencing one or more heart attack symptom, don’t wait longer than five minutes before calling 9-1-1 or visiting your local emergency department.

UnityPoint Clinic Cares for Your Heart!

In honor of American Heart Month, UnityPoint Clinic has identified heart disease prevention as a key focus during the month of February – and it’s never too early, or too late, to join our mission! 

In effort to save lives through heart attack prevention, early detection and treatment, UnityPoint Clinic Family Medicine offers a wide variety of services to keep your heart in top shape, as well as the knowledge and network to refer you to one of our leading specialists across eight regions in Iowa and Illinois. 

From routine checkups and screening tests, to health risk assessments, we are your committed partner in heart health and wellness throughout each stage of life. To learn more information or to find a doctor close to home, please contact us today.


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