One of our Cardiologists and co-founder of LabFinder, Robert Segal, MD, was interviewed on Reader’s Digest to discuss how an 18-year-old died of cardiac arrest—without showing symptoms.
He’s quoted as saying:
“Men over the age of 40, women over the age of 50, smokers, people with a genetic predisposition or family history of heart disease, people suffering from obesity and a lack of physical activity, and people with high cholesterol and high blood pressure are at highest risk,” he explains. “But the truth is that everyone is at risk for heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks.”
We don’t talk about the epidemic of heart disease nearly enough, Dr. Segal says
One possible reason for the rise in fatal heart attacks in young people is a lack of understanding about personal risk factors, Dr. Segal says. Everyone, regardless of age, should know if any first-degree relatives (mom, dad, brothers, and sisters) have or have had heart disease, he says. It’s also important to know the age at which your relative had a heart attack; if your father was 55 years of age or younger or your mother was 65 years or younger, then your risk goes way up, he adds.
Another way to assess your risk is to ask for a test to determine your Coronary Calcium Score, Dr. Segal says. It’s a non-invasive CT scan that checks for calcium deposits in your arteries. “It can raise a red flag for potential problems and give advance notice for things like ‘a widow maker,’ an incredibly lethal type of heart attack,” he explains. If you already know you are at high risk, you can benefit from routine screenings with a cardiologist, he adds.
How do you know if you’re having a heart attack? Unfortunately, some heart attacks show virtually no symptoms, as appears to have been the case in Tomlinson’s death. Chest pain is the most common sign, but a significant amount of people say they didn’t experience this before or during their heart attack. Other signs to be on alert for: Jaw pain or a toothache, especially with an accompanying headache; abnormal sweating, especially if you’re not moving or in a hot environment; abdominal or back pain, particularly in women; nausea and lightheadedness; feeling physically exhausted though you have not been moving; and shortness of breath for no reason, Dr. Segal says.
There is some good news when it comes to heart disease; a lot of the risk factors are under your control. Even if you have a higher risk due to genetics, you can substantially mitigate that by making healthy lifestyle choices like eating a healthy diet, exercising daily, quitting smoking, reducing stress, and limiting alcohol intake, Dr. Segal says.
View the original piece placement on Reader’s Digest.