Why Heart Attacks Among Young People are on the Rise

The total number of heart attacks in the United States is lower than ever before — but so is the age group it’s hitting hardest. Today, the elderly no longer hold a monopoly on cardiac arrest, as there are more heart attacks reported in young adults under the age of 40.

Multiple factors contribute to this trend, and understanding the causes can help you protect your health and prevent cardiovascular disease. Stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and a poor diet all lead to conditions that affect your heart health. At Advanced Cardiac Care located in the Ozone Park area of Queens, New York, we specialize in assessing your risk and developing a long-range plan to help you beat the statistics and prevent a heart attack. 

20-30-year-olds having more heart attacks

Most people think of heart attacks as a worry only for the elderly — the result of compounding health conditions over a long lifetime. And they’re partially right. It is the result of various health conditions, but age is no longer a factor. Now, 1 in 5 heart attack patients are younger than 40 years of age.   

What’s even more shocking is that heart attacks have become common occurrences in 20- and 30-year-olds as well, increasing by 2% between 2000-2016. 

And just because you’re younger, doesn’t mean your outlook is better following a heart attack. If you have a heart attack in your 20s or 30s, you face the same risks as older patients. Once you have that first heart attack, you have the same chance of dying from a second major heart event or a stroke regardless of your age. 

Major risk factors for heart attacks in young people

The rise in heart attacks among younger folks can largely be attributed to lifestyle. Overbooked schedules, pressure to compete, constant stress and anxiety, overeating, and self-medicating with alcohol and drugs take a toll on the heart. 


If you have diabetes, you’re constantly trying to control your blood sugar levels. If they get too high, they can damage your blood vessels, which in turn, can lead to the build up of fat in your arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis. Diabetes also increases your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two more factors that lead to heart disease. That’s why if you have diabetes, you’re 2-4 times more likely to die from heart disease compared with adults who don’t have it. 

High blood pressure

It may be the stress of a demanding job, the constant communication demands on social media, the busy schedules, or just general angst over politics and world events, but whatever the reason, these worries cause your blood pressure to skyrocket. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the biggest risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and it’s increasing faster in young adults than in older adults. High blood pressure makes your heart muscles thicken, harms your blood vessels, and increases your risk of a heart attack. 


If you’re overweight, you’re behind the eight ball when it comes to heart disease. Your weight plays a significant role in your heart health primarily because carrying extra weight places a high demand on your heart. 

Obesity alone makes you more likely to have a heart attack even if you’re otherwise healthy.

However, if you’re overweight or obese, you likely have other health conditions that impact your heart health as well, like high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. 

Smoking and vaping 

While smoking cigarettes is not as prevalent as in the past, it’s still one of the top risk factors for heart attacks in young adults. Your risk of a heart attack increases in direct proportion to the number of cigarettes you smoke. Smoking one pack a day more than doubles your risk for a heart attack compared with nonsmokers. 

Vaping has overtaken cigarette smoking in popularity among young adults and even teenagers, but you’re mistaken if you think that lets you off the hook. E-cigarettes contain nicotine and other toxic compounds that accelerate your heart rate and raise your blood pressure and make you 34% more likely to have a heart attack compared with those who don’t vape. 

Substance abuse 

Whether to destress, dull pain, escape from anxiety or depression, or just for fun, using and abusing substances gives you short-term relief, but long-term heart problems. For instance, marijuana and cocaine increase your heart rate, tighten your blood vessels, and raise your blood pressure, all of which are associated with heart attacks.

Although younger people are more at risk for heart attacks than ever before, the good news is that most of the causes are preventable. Our team at Advance Cardiac Care provides holistic health care that addresses all your cardiovascular risk factors regardless of your age. To get started on the road to a long, healthy life, call or book an appointment online.


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