Heart attacks are on the rise in patients aged 20-30 years old
Not long ago, heart attacks were primarily a problem faced by older adults. It was rare for anyone younger than 40 to have a heart attack. Now 1 in 5 heart attack patients are younger than 40 years of age.
Here’s another troubling fact to highlight the problem: Having a heart attack in your 20s or early 30s is more common. Between the years 2000-2016, the heart attack rate increased by 2% every year in this young age group.
Your outlook isn’t better following a heart attack just because you’re younger. Patients who have a heart attack in their 20s or 30s face the same risks as older patients. Once you have that first heart attack, you have the same chance of dying from a second major heart event or a stroke regardless of your age.
Diabetes is a key risk factor for an early heart attack
If you have diabetes, you’re 2-4 times more likely to die from heart disease compared with adults who don’t have diabetes. The problem develops when your blood sugar isn’t controlled well enough to keep it within a healthy range. High blood sugar damages your blood vessels, which increases the chance of fats building up in your arteries and causing atherosclerosis.
Patients with diabetes are also more likely to have other chronic health diseases that significantly increase the risk of a heart attack, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Young adults are increasingly diagnosed with hypertension
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, just like the trend in heart attacks, the incidence of hypertension is rising faster in young adults than in older adults. High blood pressure makes your heart muscles thicken, harms your blood vessels, and increases your risk of a heart attack.
Overweight and obesity are key players in heart attacks
Being overweight has a significant influence on your risk of having a heart attack for several reasons. For starters, carrying extra weight places a high demand on your heart. Obesity alone makes you more likely to have a heart attack even if you’re otherwise healthy.
However, patients who are overweight and obese often have other health conditions that detract from their heart health, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
Smoking cigarettes and vaping are major risk factors for a heart attack
Of all the things that contribute to heart attacks in young adults, smoking cigarettes is one of the top risk factors. Your risk of a heart attack increases in direct proportion to the number of cigarettes you smoke. Smoking one pack a day more than doubles your risk for a heart attack compared with nonsmokers.
While cigarette smoking has a much higher chance of causing a heart attack compared with vaping, you’re still not off the hook if you vape. E-cigarettes contain nicotine and other toxic compounds that accelerate your heart rate and raise your blood pressure. A recent study found that vaping made you 34% more likely to have a heart attack compared with non-vapers.
Substance abuse takes a toll on your heart
The experts are still studying the effect of marijuana on your heart, but they know that it boosts your heart rate and raises your risk of having a heart attack. Cocaine’s impact on your heart, however, is well established. Cocaine increases your heart rate, tightens your blood vessels, and raises your blood pressure, all of which are associated with heart attacks.
Many heart attacks are preventable because you can change your risk factors by making lifestyle changes and taking medications if needed to protect your health.