In the world of heart health, there is some good news: As a country, medical statistics suggest, fewer Americans are suffering heart attacks. The bad news is: National rates of heart attacks among people under 40 years old are increasing.

Cleveland Clinic, a global leader in cardiovascular health and medical research, reports that while aging has previously been attributed as a leading factor establishing risk of heart attack, people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are now more often falling victim to myocardial infarctions. Heart attacks can happen to anyone, young or old, male or female. 

Knowing how much you are at risk could save your life. 

Your diet, especially when consisting of large amounts of processed and ultra-processed food, is a factor; as is your overall weight; a sedentary lifestyle with little to no physical activity; add on family history with heart disease and you have, what Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist Dr. Luke Laffin says are, the reasons why there is a rise in the statistics around heart attacks in young people.

In combination to these environmental and lifestyle circumstances , Dr. Laffin also correlates a relationship between heart attack and personal health in regard to a specific disease that is also on the rise nationally, “One of the biggest risk factors of heart attack is the increasing incident of type 2 diabetes. We’re now seeing heart attacks occurring in young men who are only 25 or 35.”  Putting that into perspective, Dr. Laffin says, “Twenty years ago this wasn’t the case and was rarely discussed in medical school.”  While the causes for Type 2 Diabetes are largely unknown, it is clinically thought that genetics and environmental factors, such as poor diet, being overweight and inactive seem to be contributing aspects, just like cardiovascular disease.

Cultural and societal shifts in the past two decades might signal a correlative reasoning as to why these two medical conditions are becoming more prolific: increased cell phone use, deteriorating food quality, less emphasis on physical education in schools, or a generation of people raised during the opioid epidemic. It is easy to find a reason to point at rather than admit we are a part of a lazy and overweight population doing little to stay prepared in regards to our own health and longevity. 

Preparation for a heart attack comes down to actively trying to prevent the heart attack by eliminating as many risk factors as possible. Dr. Laffin suggests it includes trying to change the social and environmental conditions that could develop and increase your risk of a myocardial event. The things we have control over such as exercising, eating nutritious foods, choosing to avoid smoking, avoiding stimulant drugs like cocaine or amphetamines, managing stress and blood pressure, and educating yourself about your risk level, can all improve your long-term heart health.

In order to best avoid heart disease or Type 2 diabetes you need to change your environment, exercise habits, and make better dietary choices, especially if heart disease runs in the family.  Hereditary risk of cardiovascular disease is defined as having a close relative, such as a father or mother, brother or sister, son or daughter, under the age of 55 for men and 65 for women, with a heart attack or stroke history.  

You cannot change your family’s history of cardiovascular disease, but you can control what you do with the information. If you have a family history of cardiovascular disease or have life factors that place you more at risk, consult your doctor regularly and monitor your health.

It comes down to being aware of your health and taking your health seriously. 

Being aware of the symptoms of a heart attack or myocardial event can save your life or the life of a loved one.  According to the Mayo Clinic – Common heart attack signs and symptoms include: Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back.  Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain.  Shortness of breath.  Cold sweat.  Fatigue.  Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness.

Not all people will experience the same symptoms or have the same severity of symptoms. Some may develop mild pain; others might suffer more severe pain. Some people have no symptoms; for others, the first sign may be sudden cardiac arrest. However, the more signs and symptoms you have, the greater the likelihood you are having a heart attack.

Act immediately. Some people wait too long because they don’t recognize the important signs and symptoms. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Pay attention to your body and call 911 if you experience any of the symptoms indicating a myocardial infarction. 

Engaging in regular physical activity and exercising, keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol in check and monitoring your sugar and fat intake, avoiding packaged and processed foods and sugary beverages, eating a diet balanced by more fruits and vegetables and less meat, and cutting out smoking, all will keep you and your heart healthy.  Someone loves you with all their heart so, take care of yours.