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Can young people have heart attacks?

While the risk of heart attack rises with age, very rarely children, teens and young adults can have heart attacks. Interventional cardiologists—doctors with special training to reopen blocked arteries with procedures such as angioplasty and stenting—commonly see patients in their 40s, and sometimes in their 30s, who arrive at the hospital and are having heart attacks. These patients sometimes do not have the “classic” risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes and a history of smoking, for example.

The lesson is that just because someone is not “old” that does not mean that symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath are not signs of a heart attack. Listen to your body, and be aware that heart attack symptoms may be just that: signs of a heart attack. If you are a young woman you should be particularly aware that factors such as smoking and hormonal changes related to early menopause, pregnancy and birth control pills may put you at risk for heart disease. If you are young—whether male or female—do not let a perception that heart attacks happen to older people stand in the way of seeking treatment. It is better to have a doctor tell you that you do not have heart disease than it is to risk your life by letting heart disease go untreated.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.