What Causes Heart Disease in Young Adults?
February is National Heart Month, making it the perfect time to discuss and bring awareness to heart disease. While 72% of Americans feel they aren’t at risk, even those in their 20s, 30s, and 40s should think otherwise. After years of improvement, research is now showing a rise in heart disease in young adults; according to the Population Reference Bureau, it’s the fifth-leading cause of death in that age group. That means it’s time to take action. Here, we’ll go over what heart disease is, its causes, and how young adults can take the best care of their cardiovascular system.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is a chronic condition caused by an accumulation of fatty deposits in the walls of the coronary arteries, leading to a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the heart. This decreased blood flow, oxygen, and blood nutrients will eventually weaken the heart and cause chest pain, constant discomfort, reduced blood flow throughout the body, and possibly a heart attack.
While heart disease does not present many noticeable symptoms in its early stages, there are signs to watch for. The signs of heart disease include:
- Pain, numbness, and/or tingling in one’s back, arms, shoulders, neck, and/or jaw
- Swelling in one’s neck, stomach, legs, ankles, and/or feet
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Chest pain
- Irregular arrhythmia
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cold sweats
- Reduced physical abilities or issues performing normal activities
What Causes Heart Disease In Young Adults?
Studies indicate the main reasons young adults suffer from premature heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute confirmed this in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. Experts studied over 5,000 young adults (ages 18 to 30) for 15 years to see how these conditions affected the coronary arteries. They concluded that every 10 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure intensifies the risk of CAD (the most common type of heart disease) by 30%. They also found that each 30 mg/dL increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol raises the risk by 50%, and each 15 mg/dL increase in blood sugar levels by 20%.
How Can Young Adults Avoid Heart Disease?
A study from the CDC found women to be at a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity than men. However, the rates of these factors continued to rise in both men and women throughout the study. This increase in young adults facing these conditions has led to heart disease becoming more prominent in people ages 25 through 44. While these results don’t seem promising, there are a few ways adults can avoid it.
Preventative measures include:
Increased physical activity
Getting at least 150 minutes of exercise each week with activities like walking, dancing, biking, or low-intensity workouts will lower the risk of heart disease.
Over time, smoking damages the artery walls and increases one’s chances of having a heart attack, stroke, heart disease, or cancer.
Follow a healthy diet
Avoid foods that are high in trans fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt. Instead, incorporate more vegetables, fruits, and high-fiber foods.
Maintain a healthy weight
The easiest way to do this is by combining both exercise and a healthy diet into your daily life.
Cut back on alcohol consumption
Men should not drink more than two drinks per day, and women should not consume more than one per day.
Manage any anxiety by incorporating healthy coping mechanisms, meditation, and/or by seeking professional therapy.
Manage other health conditions
Be sure to get regular check-ups and talk with your primary physician about ways to reduce obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol.