44-year-old Shawn Sherlock was a generally healthy person, with no critical health issues. Mother of two young boys, she stayed active. She was a healthy eater, and even ran frequently to keep in shape. When she started having jaw pain, then shooting pains down her left arm one morning in 2017, she knew something wasn’t right. Fortunately, even though she didn’t want to believe it, she recognized the signs as a heart attack. Her husband rushed her to the emergency room. Sherlock said, “I thought, this could not be a heart attack. I am too young and healthy… I don’t want my boys to see me drop dead in front of them. Within a few hours I was in surgery and getting two stents to save my life.” (Inquisitr)
To hear of a young, healthy woman almost losing her life to a heart attack is scary, and alarming. However, unfortunately, it’s not uncommon these days.
In the past, statistics showed that heart attacks happened primarily in older people, with the risk being even higher for those with cardiac issues, or other health problems.
Recent trends show heart attacks are on the rise, especially in young women. Between 1995 and 1999, only 27% of people hospitalized for heart attacks were between 35 and 54-years-old. That number climbed to 35% in the years 2010 to 2014, with the largest increase in young women. The rise in heart attacks for young men only increased by 3%, but in young women, the increase was 9%. Researchers are trying to figure out the reason for this large increase. (CNNHealth)
“The takeaway message is that an increasing percentage of heart attacks is occurring among younger patients, even though our population is aging, and the biggest increase seems to be among young women,” said Melissa Caughey, senior author of the study, recently posted in the journal Circulation.
Caughey said, “The greater percentage of heart attacks among younger patients is alarming…and that’s especially true in light of the fact that the population is aging.” (Today.com) She explained that damage from a heart attack can cause other health issues later in life.
Researchers found some issues that may play a part in this higher increase for women:
- Women are less likely than men to receive guideline-recommended medications when needed, like non-aspirin blood thinners, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and beta-blockers.
- Women are less likely than men to receive therapies to open clogged arteries.
- Many young women are not getting screened for heart disease risk factors, like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but most men are.
Many people may not realize that heart attacks in women may look different than in men. Women may have atypical symptoms along with chest pain, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or discomfort in the arm(s), back, neck, jaw or stomach
Dr. Harmony Reynolds said, “Some people expect that a heart attack is going to feel like it looks in the movies — like people are going to clutch their chest and lie down on the floor and feel horrible — and for some people, it’s a lot more subtle than that.”
Risk Factors for Heart Attack:
- High blood pressure
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of sleep
- Increased stress
- For women, a history of preeclampsia (high blood pressure late in a pregnancy)
Dr. Erin Michos says, “The main message to women is you shouldn’t think you’re too young for a heart attack. There has always been a misconception that this is just a man’s disease. And that leads to women being underdiagnosed and undertreated.”
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