Heart Disease in Young Adults

Chest pressure, shortness of breath, and cold sweats. These could be signs of heat stroke, asthma, or even stress. Collectively they have often been misdiagnosed as signs of a heart attack, especially if you are under 40. One of the many myths associated with heart disease is believing that children and young adults don’t have to worry about heart disease because they are too young. Unfortunately, this is not true. People at any age can develop, or be born with, heart issues and potentially even experience a heart attack.

The cause of heart disease in young people can vary, but most cardiac events and death are due to heart abnormalities.

Some specific causes of heart disease in young adults include:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). This type of heart condition is usually inherited and, consequently, causes the walls of the heart muscle to thicken. The thickened muscle can disrupt the heart’s electrical system, leading to irregular heart beats. HCM often goes undetected and is the most common cause of heart-related sudden death in people under 30.
  • Coronary artery abnormalities. Sometimes people are born with abnormal heart arteries. The arteries can become compressed during exercise and not provide proper blood flow to the heart.
  • Long QT syndrome. This is an inherited problem where the heart’s rhythm isn’t consistent and, as a result, causes fast, chaotic heartbeats. This can cause the person to faint.

Cardiac disease in younger people is unexpected.  The general warning signs include breathlessness, fatigue, chest pain, weakness, edema, and pain in the left arm, jaw, back, neck, or shoulder blades.

Modifiable risk factors are those that can be successfully treated and controlled to prevent heart disease. The most common risk factors associated with heart disease in young adults are smoking, drug use, high blood pressure, and elevated LDL cholesterol. A sedentary lifestyle, alcohol abuse, and obesity can also contribute to these risk factors. Family history of heart disease is a nonmodifiable risk factor that can increase the risk of developing heart disease.

The best and most effective way to prevent heart disease and control symptoms is to practice healthy lifestyle habits. Heathier eating, reduced sedentary time, and staying active can significantly reduce the chance of developing heart complications.

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