Posted on Aug 06, 2019, 6 p.m.
Typically heart attack and stroke are conditions associated with old age. Recent statistics indicate these numbers are decreasing among older people but they are increasing among younger people.
According to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session the number of heart attacks among adults under the age of 40 has increased by an average of 2% every year between 2006-2016; this steady increase is alarming especially since the majority of heart attacks can be avoided.
Although some people are predisposed to certain heart conditions, according to experts if healthy lifestyle choices are made the average person would never have to face a heart attack, which is especially true of younger people.
“It used to be incredibly rare to see anyone under age 40 come in with a heart attack. Based on what we are seeing, it seems that we are moving in the wrong direction.” noted lead author Dr. Ron Blankstein, preventive cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and is also an associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
Data was reviewed from 2,000 heart attack survivors under the age of 50, angiograms revealed that the patients were more likely to have damage in only one vessel. The younger group was found to have had more incidents of spontaneous coronary artery dissection which is a rare condition, and a similar number of negative outcomes as the older group such as dying from another heart attack or stroke or any other reason.
Some physicians are concerned that younger patients may not be treated as aggressively as older patients as they are perceived as being at lower risk, and even the younger patients themselves ignore signs as they believe they are at low risk.
“For the most part, these are not heart attacks that are happening out of the blue,” said Blankstein. “They are happening in people who have underlying risk factors but sometimes don’t appreciate that they are at risk because they are young and think they may be invincible.”
Experts say that the majority of heart attacks are preventable by making simple healthy lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, following a healthy diet rich in fresh unprocessed foods, limiting alcohol intake, avoiding smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight.
One of the key factors driving the rate of heart attacks among the younger patients is smoking; close to 50% of the study participants who experienced heart attacks were smokers; E-cigarettes may be said to be safer, but this doesn’t change the fact that they carry similar risks.
Diabetes is another contributing factor to heart attack as 20% of the young heart attack patients were diabetics. Obesity elevates the risk of developing diabetes to start with, which also increases the risks for other health issues.
“This has a lot to do with a lack of physical activity and an unhealthy diet,” says Blankstein. “There are a lot of factors like these that people can improve upon.”
Making better lifestyle choices that focus on reducing stress and healthier habits can make a difference to the quality of life and reducing the risk of serious and life threatening conditions such as heart attack in a world that is full of stressors.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.