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Think you’re too young for a heart attack?

Protecting your heart when you’re in your 20s, 30s or 40s is probably the last thing on your mind. But heart attacks can – and do – happen to younger people.

Heart disease has been Australia’s number one killer for decades. Although we think of it as an older person’s disease because your risk of heart disease increases with age, that’s not the whole story.

Research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation found that heart attacks are increasingly occurring in younger people, especially women. The researchers studied more than 28,000 people hospitalised for heart attacks from 1995 to 2014. They found that the rate of heart attacks in patients aged 35 to 54 had increased from 27 per cent at the start of the study, to 32 per cent by the end. Australia has recorded similar increases.

How to protect your heart – whatever your age

There is no one cause for heart disease, but there are a number of risk factors. It’s never too early to improve your heart health by doing the following:

  • Quit or reduce smoking. Smokers are three times more likely to die of a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Improve your diet. What you eat and drink substantially affects four of the major heart disease risk factors – high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity. A heart-healthy diet is low in saturated fats, salt, added sugar and alcohol and rich in plant foods like fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
  • Get active. Keeping physically active gives you double benefits. It improves blood flow in the vessels around the heart as well as controlling other heart disease risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being overweight. Work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.

Seek treatment early

Heart disease is an older person’s disease that kills young people, warns the Heart Foundation. Getting treatment early is vital. Call Triple Zero (000) if you experience chest discomfort or pain. This can feel like uncomfortable pressure, aching, numbness, squeezing, fullness or pain, which may spread to your arms, neck, jaw or back. Other less obvious symptoms include a burning feeling in your chest and shortness of breath.

This article was previously published in the Well at Work Newsletter


Author Healthworks

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