Heart disease: it can happen at any age

Posted on Thursday, February 13, 2020

When you think of a heart attack patient, who do you picture? Most people think of an elderly man lying in a hospital bed. While older men are more likely to have heart attacks and heart disease, it’s not just a “men’s illness.” In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of women in America causing almost one out of every five female deaths. 1

You can have heart disease at any age. And, unfortunately in the U.S., heart disease is becoming more common in younger people. Why? Poor diets, high rates of obesity, and the prevalence of smoking are putting more Americans at risk for heart disease earlier in life.

The average age for a first heart attack in men in the U.S. is 65. For women, it’s age 72. 2 But, up to ten percent of all heart attacks happen in people younger than 45, mostly to men. 3

Heart disease is a group of diseases affecting the heart including heart rhythm disease, coronary artery disease, and heart defects present at birth. Several common risk factors contribute to heart disease:

· High blood pressure

· High cholesterol

· Smoking

· Obesity

· Diabetes

· An unhealthy diet

About 50 percent of Americans – even those in their 20s and 30s -- have at least one of the three biggest risk factors for heart disease: high cholesterol, smoking, or high blood pressure. 4

The Framingham Heart Study measured the impact of six key risk factors including obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes on more than 3,500 male participants. The research showed that a man who doesn’t have any of the risk factors has only a five percent risk of cardiovascular disease by age 95. And, he can expect to live 11 years longer than a man with two or more risk factors. However, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases to 69 percent for a man with two or more risk factors. 5

The good news is that many heart disease risk factors are preventable through lifestyle changes. February is Heart Month so it’s a great time for people with heart disease risk factors and their loved ones to start new, heart-healthy habits. That effort can make a dramatic difference. One study of 55,000 subjects published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people who maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet cut their risk for heart disease by almost 50 percent. 6

These five lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on heart health and help reduce the incidence of diabetes and stroke:

· Reduce sodium intake• High blood pressure • High cholesterol • Smoking • Obesity • Diabetes • An unhealthy diet

· Eat more fruits and vegetables

· Add more omega-3 fatty acids from nuts and fish

· Cut sugary drinks

· Eat more whole grains

Mom’s Meals delivers nutritionally tailored meals nationwide for people who have common health conditions including heart disease. The heart-friendly meals are lower in fat and sodium. Click here for more information.

1. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/women.htm
2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-heart-attack-gender-gap
3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/premature-heart-disease
4. https://www.cdc.gov/features/heartmonth/index.html
5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/premature-heart-disease
6. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/lifestyle-changes-to-lower-heart-disease-risk-2019110218125

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