HEART ATTACK! Can It Happen to Young People?

Do young people have heart attacks? Are women at higher risk? Every year in the United States, more than 1,000 people between the ages of 35 and 44 experience coronary artery disease. Studies show that men have more heart attacks than women, even under age 50. However, women are more apt to die after suffering a heart attack. One of the reasons women may be more likely to die after a heart attack is because symptoms of a heart attack in women may not be as obvious as they are in men. While a man may experience acute heartburn, chest pain or pain radiating down the left arm, a woman’s symptoms can be much milder. A woman may feel fatigue, shortness of breath or lightheadedness and indigestion – symptoms that could easily be attributed to other causes, such as anxiety.

A heart attack happens when the blood that flows to a section of heart muscle gets blocked. That section of heart muscle begins to die without a quick restoration of blood flow, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Heart attacks are often the result of coronary artery disease, which occurs when a waxy substance called plaque builds up in the coronary artery. The location in the artery involved plays a role. If there’s a huge clot producing such extensive damage that the heart stops beating, it could only take a matter of minutes to be fatal.

Being overweight leads to Type II diabetes and increases in blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Heavy smoking is also a strong risk factor for heart attacks. Refraining from smoking and not becoming obese are key for avoiding heart attacks. If you are obese, make sure your cholesterol and blood pressure are under control. When a person who’s especially young dies of heart problems, such as in their thirties or younger, something other than blockage to the heart may be at work. The heart could be enlarged or thickened, or there may be a congenital abnormality that would cause the person to die suddenly.

Know Your Genetics

High cholesterol, mitral valve prolapse and some cardiac arrhythmias can be inherited. These issues can be diagnosed on routine physical examinations, so if these conditions run in your family, you might want to make sure these tests are included in any testing you get at your next doctor visit.

Lower Your Cholesterol

Know your cholesterol numbers and keep them at a healthy level. High cholesterol is a primary cause of heart disease, so try to keep yours under 200mg/dl. Also exercise regular to keep your metabolism working efficiently and burning fat. This will lessen the workload on your heart.

Watch Your Diet

Eating fried food and too many fast food meals will raise your cholesterol and, in turn, clog your coronary arteries. Aim to consume a healthier daily diet by eating home-cooked meals more often and broiling or grilling food rather than frying it. And, save those fast-food meals for rare occasions.

Heart Attack Symptoms to Look For

  • Chest Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Nausea, indigestion
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue

Someone suffering a heart attack will typically experience more than one of these symptoms simultaneously. Should you experience any combination of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Keep in mind that these symptoms may lead to a mistaken diagnosis of an anxiety attack or other problem. If you suspect a heart attack, ask to be tested for one. Be smart, speak up, take care of yourself, and remember that you are not invincible, regardless of your age.

Celeste Botonakis

On the Nursing Assistant Guides blog, certified medical assistant Celeste Botonakis explores the daily life of a CMA. She'll keep you up-to-date with the latest on what’s happening in the field, and provides tips for those who are interested in becoming a medical or nursing assistant. Celeste has served in the medical field for over six years, and is passionate about helping people. She currently works at CSR Primary Care in Skokie, Illinois. Click here to learn more about Celeste Botonakis and NursingAssistantGuides.com.