What to do about the rise in heart attacks in young adults?

Accumulating data on this topic tells us that young adults are suffering from more heart problems than in previous decades. This worrying phenomenon can be explained by declining lifestyle habits, especially lack of exercise and poor diet. Furthermore, some studies suggest that COVID infection may have contributed to the worsening of the condition.

Even more worryingly, the proportion of heart attacks among young adults (ages 20 to 50) is increasing worldwide, while older age groups are seeing a decline. Many physicians have expressed their concerns National Geographic In the face of what they consider a public health emergency.

Recent events have added to these concerns. Last July, Bronnie James (just 18), the youngest son of NBA star LeBron James, collapsed from cardiac arrest during basketball practice at the University of California. from the south After a brief stay, he has been released from the hospital without any damage.

Cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack, but this incident and many similar cases raise more general questions about the relationship between youth and heart health.

Ron Blankenstein, preventive cardiology specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, US, said, “Young people are not immune to cardiac arrest or heart attack, yet many believe that these conditions only occur in the elderly. affect people.” “The most important thing for young people to remember is that most heart disease is preventable simply by adopting the right habits. ,

Brony James’s cardiac arrest occurs when the heart fails electrically and suddenly stops beating. This problem is different from a heart attack, which occurs when blood flow to the heart is partially or completely blocked.

Since cardiac arrest can be caused by a variety of diseases, such as cardiomyopathy (thickening of the heart muscle), heart failure, arrhythmia (irregular heart rate) and, of course, heart attack, it is important for doctors to study and determine It is difficult to say whether this is becoming more common in young adults.

On the other hand, studies show that heart attacks, also known as myocardial infarction, are on the rise among young people. Some of the most common symptoms include chest pain or discomfort, pain extending to the jaw, neck, back or arms, shortness of breath, dizziness or weakness.

According to a study of more than 2,000 young adults hospitalized for a heart attack between 2000 and 2016 at two hospitals in the United States, 1 in 5 patients was 40 or younger, and the proportion for this group increased by 2% per year in the last ten years.

Published in 2019 in the journal american journal of medicineThe study in question also shows that for subjects age 40 or younger who have already had a heart attack, the risk of dying from a second heart attack, stroke, or any other disease is as high as for older adults. .

In fact, according to an editorial published last March on the Medical Journal website, the increase in cases of heart disease among young adults in 2020 and 2021 contributes more than 4% to the latest decline in life expectancy in the United States. Sourdough Network.

The problem is not just for Americans. In Pakistan and India, for example, studies show that adults suffer heart attacks at a younger age. “Heart disease knows no international boundaries,” summarizes Blankenstein, “and so do the risk factors. »

While men are generally more affected by heart attacks than women, recent studies suggest that the number of young women who have a heart attack exceeds the number of young men. In addition, the consequences of heart attacks are more severe in young women.

According to a survey conducted in 2018 and published in the journal trafficOf all hospitalizations for myocardial infarction among persons aged 35 to 74 between 1995 and 2014, the share of 35–54-year-olds was 27% between 1995 and 1999, compared to 27% between 2010 and 2014. was 32%. The increase is higher among youth females (21% to 31%) than among young males (30% to 33%).

Young women in the study sample were more often black, with a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and stroke.

Major risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity, all of which can block and damage the arteries or blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to the heart.

While some of these predispositions may be genetic, they are often acquired through years of poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle, usually beginning in childhood, experts in Preventive Cardiology and the American College of Cardiology say. says Prevention member Eugene Yang. Cardiology Council.

On the other hand, it appears that COVID has a more immediate impact on heart health. A study published in 2022 in the journal Journal of Medical Virology Turns out that heart attack deaths increased by 14% in the first year of the pandemic. The largest increase occurred among adults aged 25 to 44.

As Yang explained to us, COVID is known to trigger an inflammatory response in the body, but it also makes the blood thicker and more viscous, increasing the risk of blood clots that can clog arteries. can block and cause a heart attack. infected people. Why young adults are more prone to COVID-related cardiovascular complications remains a mystery.

In spite of everything, the young adult isn’t worried. A January survey by The Ohio State University Medical Center shows that 47% of people under the age of 45 don’t feel concerned about their risk of heart disease; A third of adults surveyed say they are unable to identify with confidence if they are having a heart attack.

Similarly, only half of 3,500 young adults with significant risk factors considered themselves vulnerable before their first heart attack. The number of subjects who said they had been warned about their sensitivity by their doctor was even lower, especially among women.

The fault is not only his, he said. The health care system is not designed to effectively diagnose and treat young adults with heart disease, Blankenstein said, leading to a misconception among doctors that younger patients are at reduced risk. For example, the most widely used “risk calculator” developed by the American Heart Association only assesses risk for individuals between the ages of 40 and 75.

Furthermore, under current guidelines, most young adults who have had a heart attack will not be eligible for cholesterol treatment prior to that event; Despite similar risk factors, women face even more restricted eligibility for these treatments than men.

The main thing lies in early prevention. The longer a person lives with risk factors, the more likely they are to develop heart disease and suffer its most severe consequences later in life, especially if left untreated.

“Take the time to assess your risk factors,” advises Mariel Jessup, MD, scientific and medical director of the American Heart Association, and then develop a plan to address as many of them as possible. ,

The AHA recommends following the “Essential 8 for Life,” a set of measures that, if implemented, can improve and maintain cardiovascular health. These measures include healthy eating, regular physical activity, a tobacco-free life, and adequate sleep, as well as controlling weight, cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

“Early adulthood offers a tremendous opportunity for prevention of heart disease, which goes hand in hand with overall health,” said John Wilkins, MD, professor of medicine in cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “The more we are able to get young adults to these optimal levels, the more likely they are to live long, healthy lives. ,

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