Heart Health

Updated 22 September 2017

You're not too young to have a heart attack

How much do you really know about the things that can go wrong with your heart throughout the course of your life?

We cannot live without a heart. 

But how much do you really know about your heart health?

Heart disease includes a number of conditions, such as ischaemic heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, cardiac arrest, arrhythmia, angina and heart valve disease.

But did you know that heart disease is not only a problem in older people? While it's true that you are at greater risk of heart disease as you age, it can affect people of any age.

18 years old

“I’m too young to have a heart attack” is a common misconception among teenagers and young adults. The truth is that your lifestyle can affect your cardiovascular health, even from an early age.

According to The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, there are some risk factors for heart disease you cannot control.  

Family history and genetics play an important role in determining the likelihood of heart disease.

Another risk factor is poverty, which is rife in South Africa. According to Statistics South Africa, poverty levels rose from 53.2% in 2011 to 55.55% in 2015.

Children 17 years and younger, black Africans, females, people from rural areas and those with little to no access to education are the main victims of poverty.

This increases anxiety and stress levels. Healthy lifestyle choices are not always an option and good medical treatment is often inaccessible.

25 years old

A study has shown that many young people show early signs of heart disease such as blocked arteries due to high cholesterol.

The biggest risk factors for a clogged artery were found in obese individuals with high levels of “bad” cholesterol. If you're in your 20s, have your cholesterol tested.

High cholesterol can be treated through dietary and lifestyle changes and medication.

The younger you are, the better it is to make positive and healthy lifestyle choices that may benefit you in the long run.

30 years old

Signs and symptoms of heart disease in your 30s are an even greater risk for complications later in life.

Symptoms may differ in men and women.

According to the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, some women who have coronary heart disease (CHD) show no signs or symptoms – this is called silent CHD.

Many factors together increase the likelihood of heart disease, and there is no single cause. The more risk factors you have, the higher your chances of developing heart disease.

40 years old

According to The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa women are better protected against a heart attack before menopause, but the risk increases after the onset of menopause.

Menopause by itself does not cause heart disease, but a decline in oestrogen may be a contributing factor. Studies suggest that oestrogen has a positive effect on the inner lining of the artery walls by allowing the blood vessels to accommodate adequate blood flow.

Further risk factors for heart disease include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. Unhealthy lifestyle choices increase your risk as you grow older.

People who are diagnosed with peripheral artery disease and stroke, which carry the same risk factors as heart disease, have an increased risk of developing further heart complications and illnesses.

65 years and older

Advanced age and family history are risk factors for heart disease. Stats SA reports that non-communicable diseases have increased in the elderly.

Non-communicable diseases, which include cardiovascular diseases, are accountable for 62.5% of the top 10 leading causes of death among females  65 years and older, and 48% among males 65 years and older.

But it does not mean that you will develop heart disease. Controlling risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, body weight, physical activity, stress and nutrition can lower your chances of developing heart disease throughout your life.

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