Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term used for all conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. CVD is often perceived as a problem strictly for the older population. However, it is more common in adolescents and young adults than most people realize – it can affect anyone, at any age. The younger population is often unaware that they may be at risk and may fail to take the appropriate actions that could save their lives. Educating parents, adolescents, and young adults about the different risk factors is the best way to help prevent death and reduce problems associated with cardiac disease. In particular, childhood obesity has quickly become a global epidemic where 1 in 10 children are estimated to be overweight. Obesity can lead to precursors for CVD such as dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), hypertension (high blood pressure), type-2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. If these conditions are left unchecked, premature cardiovascular disease can occur, leading to significant health problems in young adults. Additionally, cardiac disease in the young can also be caused by undiagnosed or untreated congenital heart defects and abnormalities.
Cardiac disease in the young is often unexpected, so warning signs are not always recognized. The general warning signs in adults include;
They may also experience pain in the
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Women often experience slightly different warning signs. As opposed to heart pain, they may feel squeezing or tightness in the chest. Sometimes, they do not feel chest pressure at all, and instead, will feel short of breath, upper back pressure, or upper abdominal pain. They may also experience excessive fatigue, cold sweats, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes fainting. Heart disease is the No.1 killer of women in the U.S. This is often due to women mistaking their symptoms for other conditions such as a stomach bug, the flu, or indigestion.
For children and adolescents, signs and symptoms may not be as obvious. Dissimilar to adults, chest pain is rarely indicative of cardiac disease in children. However, a physician should be notified if chest pain does occur with strenuous activity such as exercise. Symptoms in children and adolescents may include;
The inability to physically keep up with others of the same ageBecoming out of breath much sooner than others of the same ageTurning blue around the gums or tongueDizziness with physical exertionHeart palpitationsIn some cases, fainting (syncope)