Why Young People Have Heart Attacks: Is It Preventable?

We quite often hear news about the fit and healthy people who do regular workouts are losing their life because of a heart attack. Such things surprise us as we have all heard many times that regular exercising helps to maintain cardiovascular health. 

But why does this happen? Why do we see young people dying from sudden cardiac arrest? Is it preventable? 

Why do young people have heart attack

In the last 30 years, the cases of heart attack in young people under the age of 40 years have tripled. This is attributable to a rise in the number of risk factors. Nearly 40% of heart attacks occur in people under the age of 55, and 15-20% in people under the age of 40. People are also having larger and more severe heart attacks. Nearly 5% of heart attacks result in cardiac arrest, which leads to mortality. 

Why young people are having heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest?

In recent studies conducted by American Heart Association on people aged 2 to 45 years having cardiac issues, it was discovered that in individuals with a known risk of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) was encountered in the young population. Among arrhythmias, congenital abnormalities, and cardiomyopathies; Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) was the most commonly diagnosed in 53 percent of those aged 35 to 45 years and 16 percent of those aged 25 to 35 years. Men and women were both represented in the CHD group, which is both surprising and concerning.

Even among those aged 2 to 24, 13 percent had cardiovascular risk factors. Coronary artery calcification and atherosclerotic heart disease that was predicted by the existence of cardiovascular risk factors in childhood.

"The topic of heart-related ailment non-detection is a really severe issue," says Dr. Ashok Seth (Head of Cardiology Council of Fortis Group of Hospitals). "Even when people have 70 percent or more blockages in their arteries, one out of every four people reports no symptoms or merely vague ones like weariness. Three unsuspecting persons in their 30s were diagnosed with significant arterial blockages of more than 70% at our hospital last week" he explains. "One was there for a routine check, while the other two were being examined in advance of a different treatment. They all exercised regularly, and none of them had ever suffered heart-related symptoms like weariness or shortness of breath".

Another cause cited for the rise of heart attacks in youngsters is mostly due to changes in their lifestyles during the last two decades. Apart from smoking, diabetes and hypertension are significant risk factors connected to bad lifestyles and habits which we already know.

Apart from these causes, in present days there are multiple risk factors involved. Work pressure, late nights, and lack of sleep has become widespread; heart-healthy activity is declining, obesity is increasing; food habits have drastically shifted to eating out or cooking quick foods high in trans fats, which can cause damage to the heart. 

All of this contributes to increased stress levels, which are a leading cause of heart attacks. In addition, Pollution also has been linked to coronary artery damage and heart attacks, and pollution in major cities has gotten a lot worse in this decade.

According to American Heart Association, Schizophrenia has been linked to an increased risk of SCA. Schizophrenia is a dangerous psychiatric disorder in which patients have aberrant perceptions of reality. Schizophrenia can include hallucinations, delusions, and profoundly abnormal thoughts and behaviors. Psychiatric medicines have been shown to extend the QT interval and increase the incidence of ventricular arrhythmias, even at therapeutic doses. The link between psychiatric disorder, the central nervous system, and SCA, on the other hand, is likely to be significantly more complex, including more than just autonomic control of heart rate and rhythm.

As a key risk factor for heart disease, smoking ranks first, followed by high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity, and diabetes. In fact, smoking is the leading cause of premature death in the United States. The person need not be smoking but even the secondhand smoke from someone else smoking can cause heart problems.

According to the CDC, roughly 34,000 nonsmokers die of heart disease each year as a result of secondhand cigarette smoke exposure. Smokers' exhaled smoke is known as secondhand smoke. Smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar, or pipe is also included.

Why do fit and healthy people who exercise have heart attacks?

Heart-healthy exercises can improve cardiovascular fitness and lower the risk of heart attacks. Exercises such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling, etc. Any exercise beyond these simple activities gives no benefits to the heart and in some cases, it may even harm the heart. People have mistaken strenuous exercises as heart-healthy. Bodybuilding, weight lifting, muscle building or even exercising beyond the limits which the body can sustain might raise the likelihood of blood clotting, which can lead to a heart attack even with a little blockage. Furthermore, several steroid pills used in muscle building can be detrimental to the heart.

Even there are genetic causes that can lead to heart issues in young and healthy people. One of the most important risk factors for heart disease is family history, such as a mother or father who had heart attacks or died suddenly before the age of 60. Family history of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), hypertension (high blood pressure) and hypotension(low blood pressure), etc. may also be considered as risk factors.

The pandemic COVID-19 is closely linked to heart ailments even after you have recovered from the deadly infection. COVID-19 can harm the heart muscle and affect heart function. This can happen due to multiple factors. The coronavirus connects to angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE-2) receptors on cardiac cells before entering them. High levels of inflammation circulating in the body can potentially cause heart damage. The inflammatory process that occurs while the body's immune system battles the virus can harm some healthy tissues, including the lungs and the heart.

Coronavirus infection affects the inner walls of veins and arteries, causing blood vessel inflammation, damage to extremely small capillaries, and blood clots, all of which can obstruct blood flow to the heart and other regions of the body.

When people recover from the coronavirus, they may have symptoms of POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). 

POTS is a neurologic disorder that affects the composition of the neurological system that controls heart rhythm and blood flow, rather than a cardiac problem. When you get up, the syndrome might induce rapid heartbeats, which can cause brain fog, weariness, palpitations, lightheadedness, and other symptoms. 

Researchers are looking into the possibility of a link between POTS and heart issues.

Can Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Heart Attacks in young and fit people be preventable?

Yes. Following tips can help you prevent any potential problem with the heart.

Having Regular body checkups

In some cases, this can be treated if diagnosed at right time. After the age of 30, annual medical exams, including a TMT, becomes critical in people who have a higher risk of heart ailments. Those at high risk should also have a calcium CT scoring done by the age of 35 and every 5 years after that. This is also critical for young individuals who participate in severe sports, bodybuilding, extreme fitness routines and work in high-stress environments. All other young males in India who have no risk indicators should undergo a check-up by the age of 30 and then every 5 years after that. 

Cardiovascular Cascade genetic testing 

Cascade screening can save family members' lives in the event of a genetic cause. Cascade testing successfully identifies at-risk relatives who would benefit from early screening and medical intervention, perhaps leading to early diagnosis and illness prevention. In most cases, 25 percent to 50 percent of first-degree relatives, as well as a significant percentage of second and third-degree relatives, are likely to be impacted. As genetics and tailored therapy become more important, the cost of finding causal mutations should decrease.

Treating congenital heart defects

Congenital heart abnormalities follow people throughout their lives and predict coronary artery calcification and atherosclerotic heart disease. As a result, measures aimed at reducing the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors in adolescents and young people may reduce the incidence of SCA. Furthermore, even in young children, nutritional and activity therapies are safe and effective.

Health healthy exercises

Exercising is important to keep the heart-healthy. In fact, just 45 minutes of brisk walking five times a week can help reduce weight, improve diabetes and cholesterol control, enhance fitness, create well-being, increase positivity, and cut the risk of heart attack by 25%. Strenuous exercise should be avoided.

Yoga and meditation have been shown to have a calming and relaxing effect on the mind, as well as a reduction in tension. It is critical to maintain a calm and serene mentality at all times and not to take work stress too seriously.

Avoid stress 

Stress and other environmental factors may play a role in the development of schizophrenia, according to new findings which have been linked to increased risk of SCA.

Avoiding stress can help in heart health. Chronic mental stress has been linked to the creation of toxic hormones that damage the inner lining of the heart arteries, resulting in blockages. Heart attacks can also be triggered by sudden intense emotional stress.

Managing COVID and its effects

If you have recently been infected by Coronavirus, it is very important to take care of yourself and look out for symptoms of heart attack warning signs such as shortness of breath, sudden and severe chest pain for more than 5 minutes, swelling in legs, heart palpitations, irregular or rapid pulse rate. Aspirin is commonly prescribed by doctors, in aftermath of Coronavirus infection to avoid the occurrence of blood clots.

Know CPR

According to American Heart Association, most SCA events occur in private residences where only the family members can provide immediate care such as CPR. It is suggested that family members should be trained in providing CPR in emergencies. This can help a lot and might probably save a life in some cases.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes such as healthy eating habits, keeping the body vitals in control, and avoiding smoking can help in preventing heart diseases. We must remember that heart disease prevention is critical in preventing heart attacks and that timely and regular doctor visits can save lives.

Keeping your weight in control

If you're overweight, your doctor will work with you to reduce weight and get your BMI back to a healthy range. Changing your diet and increasing your physical activity can assist in reducing body weight. Adults aged 40 to 70 who are overweight should have their blood glucose examined at least every three years, according to the US Preventive Services Task Force, as long as their findings are normal. If your blood glucose is abnormal, your healthcare practitioner may suggest behavioral counseling to help you eat better and exercise more.

Avoid smoking

According to the American Heart Association, quitting smoking cuts the risk of heart disease in half, as well as the chance of recurring heart attacks and death from heart disease. Many factors that contribute to a heart attack can be managed by stopping smoking, according to research. Atherosclerosis, blood clots, and irregular heart rhythms are among them.

Quitting smoking has to be a gradual process. Nicotine replacement products can help you quit smoking in some situations. Smokers can still get nicotine via nicotine replacement products to satisfy their nicotine cravings. Nicotine replacement products, on the other hand, do not contain the tars and harmful gases that cigarettes do.

To conclude, heart attacks are growing increasingly common among today's young people as a result of several variables such as lifestyle, food, stress, and lack of exercise. When you're over 30, getting a heart checkup once a year is a smart idea because it keeps you informed about your heart's condition. To lower the risk of a heart attack, it is preferable to live a healthy, active lifestyle. After all, we all want the ticker to tick as smoothly as possible for as long as possible.

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