Younger Adults May Suffer Heart Disease
By Michelle Murphy, RN, MSN, CCNS
It was a beautiful Sunday morning, a perfect day to get yard work done. But there was this intense discomfort at the top of 45-year-old Steve’s stomach which started radiating up toward his chest. Throughout the day this discomfort came and went multiple times, until Steve went to the McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center Emergency Room, where he learned he was having a heart attack.
Although age 45 may seem too young to have heart disease, the fact is every 30 seconds, someone in the US will have a heart attack; and some of them are in their 40s and even in their 30s.
The classic heart attack chest pain, is not always described as actually painful. Some feel a sensation more like a pressure, squeezing, or fullness in their chest that lasts a few minutes or more. Sometimes symptoms come and go as in Steve’s case.
It commonly happens that more subtle indications, not always attributed to heart attack, may occur during a heart attack. For example, discomfort in the stomach, jaw, across the upper back, or down the right arm can actually be heart pain, as well as shortness of breath (with or without chest discomfort), breaking out in a sweat, the sudden appearance of nausea or lightheadedness.
Heart disease is the number one killer of adult Americans, both for men and women. Half of all deaths occur within one hour of the first symptom. Yet research shows that most people wait two hours from the onset of the first symptom before seeking emergency treatment.
Heart disease has no respect for age. Although heart attacks are most commonly experienced among those 50 years or older, some adults are experiencing their first heart attacks in their 30s and 40s. Fortunately for Steve, he headed to the hospital, received emergency medical care, a stent to one of his coronary arteries, and went home the next day. He was back to work later that week, able to continue his daily walking regimen, and play softball by the next weekend.
Regardless of your age, if you feel any unique discomfort — that you have never felt before — get it checked out immediatley. It may save your life.
About the Author: Michelle Murphy works as critical care clinical nurse specialist at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center, where she facilitates education and best practices for critical care units.