Heart Attacks At Young Age

Believe it or not, heart attacks don't just occur in older people. Young people, even in their 30s, can have a heart attack. Recently on Women's Health, a young woman revealed her experience with having a heart attack in her 30s. What doctors discovered that her heart's circumflex artery was 99% blocked. They were able to relieve the blockage and found that most of her arteries had only moderate plaque, the plaque had ruptured to only then become lodged in her heart. 

Heart attacks in women between the ages 35-45 are more common than ever. 35,000 women under the age of 55 suffer from heart attacks each year. There's a huge misconception that heart attacks only occur in older women. Most young women are unaware of their risks and don't even know their blood pressure or cholesterol. 

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Post-heart attack, there are often residual effects, both physical and emotional. Most people tend to live in fear, thinking it inevitably happen again. The "Go Red For Women" during February, which is American Heart Month, is to draw attention to the fact that women are highly at risk at all ages for heart disease and heart attacks. 

Heart disease, in its most general sense, refers to several types of conditions like coronary heart (or artery) disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke.  It is responsible for approximately 600,000 deaths annually, which translates into about one in every four deaths.  

Heart disease symptoms in women often differ from those in men.  Let’s focus on heart attacks: about 715,000 Americans suffer a heart attack every year and about two-thirds of women who have a heart attack will not make a full recovery.  One of the most common symptoms of a heart attack, especially in men, is the crushing chest pain we’ve all seen on TV.  

In women however, heart attack symptoms often don’t include chest pain, are often more subtle.  An easy way to identify symptoms of a heart attack in women is by remembering the pneumonic, PULSE:

Persistent chest pain – this can also include neck, shoulder and upper back
Upset stomach, nausea, vomiting
Lightheadedness, dizziness
Shortness of breath
Excessive sweating

The silver lining to all of this is that heart disease is preventable and controllable. Choose a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly.  Quit smoking and limit your alcohol use.  

If you have any other conditions, like diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, make sure you’re managing them appropriately, especially if this entails daily medication.  When you visit your physician for check-ups, make sure you know your most recent and past history of blood pressure, cholesterol, Hemoglobin A1c (or HbA1c, a measure of your blood sugar level) and BMI.  

When making these efforts, be sure to not overextend yourself – don’t try to do too many things at once, rather, take small steps, one at a time.  Recruit a friend or family member to help motivate you throughout the process.  And remember, try to make it fun whenever possible – your heart will thank you for it.