According to the American College of Cardiology (ACC), fewer heart attacks are occurring in the United States overall. However, the ACC also reports that more people aged 40 or younger are having heart attacks. In fact, as many as one in five heart attack patients are aged 40 or younger.
At Indus Cardiology in Pomona, Montclair, and West Covina, California, Yogesh Paliwal, MD, and our team are dedicated to helping patients of all ages understand their risks for heart problems. We want to help you assess your personal risk and take steps to mitigate it. Preventive cardiology is a crucial service, regardless of your age.
Heart issues in young adults
According to Harvard Medical School, about 80% of heart attacks in younger patients are caused by coronary artery disease (CAD). With this condition, the coronary arteries — which are the major vessels that supply blood to the heart — become narrow or blocked. This often occurs due to inflammation and a buildup of cholesterol deposits (plaque) in the arteries.
As for the other 20%, Harvard Medical School reports that about 4% of heart attacks in younger people are due to abnormalities in the structure of their coronary arteries. An additional 5% occur because of blood clots that originate somewhere else in the body and travel to the heart, and another 5% happen because of a variety of disorders that cause clots to form.
The last 6% of heart attacks in younger people happen for a variety of reasons, such as radiation therapy, trauma to the chest, and abuse of substances, such as cocaine or amphetamines.
Since CAD is the underlying cause of the vast majority of heart attacks in younger people, it’s the risk you should be most aware of. Although CAD can develop unnoticed — plaque can build up in your arteries without your knowledge — it can be associated with certain symptoms.
One potential symptom is what’s called stable angina. This symptom involves temporary chest pain or discomfort that comes and goes at predictable times. For example, it may manifest during physical activity or emotional distress. Another potential symptom is shortness of breath, which some people feel during light physical activity.
There are a number of lifestyle factors that can raise your risk of developing CAD, such as eating a diet high in saturated fat or refined carbohydrates, not exercising, and not getting enough sleep. Furthermore, smoking, vaping or using other tobacco products can increase your risk of developing CAD.
Addressing other issues
Along with not smoking, you should avoid heavy alcohol consumption. Drinking too much could weaken your heart muscle, which could make it difficult for your heart to pump blood. You should also avoid using illicit drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine. Drugs such as these can lead to heart issues in people of all ages.
You should also pay close attention to your heart if you have a family history of heart disease or if you have a medical issue, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, metabolic syndrome, or are overweight or obese. These conditions can raise your risk of developing heart problems, such as CAD. So, if you can relate to any of these issues, it’s imperative that you see a specialist who can assess your risk of developing heart problems.
If you have a heart problem and want treatment, or if you want to get evaluated, our team can help. To learn more, contact Indus Cardiology to schedule an appointment today.