Although many consider heart attacks an “old man’s disease”, they often affect young adults. Certain risk factors, such as smoking and substance abuse, increase the likelihood of it in young people.
An Atherosclerosis Risk Study (ARIC), which began in 1987, found an increased incidence of heart attacks in young people. They noted an increase in young women in particular.
According to a 2021 study, while the number of heart attacks in the general population has decreased significantly, this is not necessarily the case among young people. The researchers noted the various risk factors affecting young adults. Also, young people may be less likely to receive preventative treatment because doctors consider them to be at low risk of heart attack.
Read on to know the causes and risk factors for heart attack in young people.
People with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease than people without diabetes. They are also more likely to have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart attack.
High blood pressure
Young people with high blood pressure, in addition to obesity and diabetes, have an increased risk of carrying these risk factors into adulthood. This training effect increases their risk of heart disease and stroke.
overweight and obesity
A 2018 study published in Circulation found that people with higher BMIs, including younger people, were more likely to have poorer cardiovascular health. This was especially true for high blood pressure and left ventricular mass index, a measure that predicts sudden cardiac death. Heart damage that begins in childhood can lead to a heart attack in adulthood. The 2018 study showed that each additional unit of BMI was associated with higher blood pressure. It was also associated with an increase in the thickness and size of the left ventricle, one of the lower heart chambers responsible for pumping blood around the body.
Smoking triples the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease or stroke compared to a person who does not smoke. In addition, people who start smoking before the age of 15 are most at risk. The data showed that study participants who started smoking between the ages of 10 and 14 had a higher risk of dying prematurely from heart disease or stroke. However, the data also showed that if a person quit smoking before the age of 40, the increased risk of premature death was reduced by around 90%.
While e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking tobacco, that doesn’t mean they are safe. Researchers don’t yet know the long-term impacts on the heart and other areas of health.
Misuse of substances
Substance abuse can increase the risk of developing heart disease sooner than expected.
A 2021 study examined the relationship between recreational substance use and the premature development of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (plaque buildup). It revealed that people with premature ASCVD consumed more:
tobacco (62.9% versus 40.6%)
alcohol (31.8% versus 14.8%)
cocaine (12.9% vs. 2.5%)
amphetamine (2.9% vs. 0.5%)
cannabis (12.5% versus 2.7%).
The researchers also found that women were at the highest risk.
Some people inherit genetic heart problems from their parents. For example, about 1 in 250 people have familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic condition that increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease at a younger age.
Other heart conditions may be present at birth:
Familial cardiomyopathies: These conditions make it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body.
Familial arrhythmias: These are irregular heart rhythms.
Marfan syndrome: This is a disease of connective tissue, including muscles such as the heart.
Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome (SADS): This is an unexplained underlying familial heart rhythm that is only discovered during an investigation into a person’s cause of death.
Here are some tips for preventing heart disease throughout life. In particular, young people can:
get regular health checkups with a doctor
learn about family history of heart health to understand their risk
stay physically active
avoid smoking and exposure to passive smoking
limit stress as much as possible
develop heart-healthy habits, such as taking daily walks or planting a vegetable garden.
When to contact a doctor
If a person has warning signs of a heart attack, call emergency services. It’s usually the fastest way for a person to get the life-saving treatment they need.
It is important to note that in addition to chest pain, women may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Heart attacks in young people are due to an interruption in the blood supply to the heart. Young people can develop heart disease for a variety of reasons, including the following:
high blood pressure
a genetic heart problem
other substance abuse
A young person can avoid a heart attack by understanding their family history, eating well, exercising, and getting regular checkups from the doctor.