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Heart Attacks on the Rise Among Under-40 Crowd

Heart Attacks on the Rise Among Under-40 Crowd

In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. But they aren’t just an issue for your grandparents’ generation, though it’s easy to see why many would think that. The average age of a first heart attack is 65 for men and 72 for women, but research continues to mount that heart attacks are on the rise among people under 40 years old.

Even though fewer heart attacks are occurring overall -- in large part because of the use of medications like statins and a decline in smoking -- very young people are having more heart attacks, rising by 2 percent each year for the last 10 years.

Another study found that hospitalizations for heart attacks are becoming more prevalent among those under the age of 55, particularly Black women. These younger women were more likely to have a history of conditions that can increase the chance of a heart attack, including hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and stroke. More research noted that those who experienced a heart attack under the age of 45 were more likely to be male, smoke, have obesity and have a family history of premature heart attacks.

A related study found that 1 in 5 patients who suffer a heart attack when they were under 50 years old also have diabetes. These patients have worse outcomes and to have repeat cardiovascular events.

Traditional risk factors for heart attack -- diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, family history of premature heart attack and high cholesterol -- were similar between the two groups, older and younger. But, the youngest patients were more likely to report substance abuse, including marijuana and cocaine, but had less alcohol use.

Though alarming numbers, many heart attacks in young people could be prevented with earlier detection of heart disease and aggressive lifestyle modifications (and managing other issues like diabetes properly!) The best way to reduce your risk for heart attack is to avoid tobacco, get regular exercise, eat a heart healthy diet, lose weight if you need to, and manage your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Major symptoms for a heart attack include chest pain, trouble breathing, sweating, dizziness, fatigue and nausea. And while we all associate chest pain with heart attacks, women often have symptoms that aren’t related to chest pain at all. If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, call 9-1-1.