By Dr. Carol Pate

At the turn of the century (that’s 2000 to you), cardiologists reported seeing older men and women (64+) with heart problems such as high blood pressure, an irregular heart rhythm and heart attacks. Dr.David Rosenbaum, a Colorado Springs cardiologist, reports in a recent WSJ article that, today, he regularly sees men and women in their 30s and 40s with heart problems. “When a lot of young people you’re taking care of are younger than you, that’s a bit unnerving.”

The prevalence of several cardiovascular disease risk factors is higher in the U.S. for 35 – 64year-olds than for older adults. National Center for Health Statistics, CDC

Middle age Americans are dying, at a rising rate, of heart disease and strokes. Baby boomers continue to deal with heart disease but they smoke less and consume less sodium than their younger counterparts.

Millennials are not to be over-looked. The American Heart Association published a study in 2018 looking specifically at younger people. “Cardiac disease is sometimes considered an old man’s disease, but the trajectory of heart attacks among young people is going the wrong way … it’s actually going up for young women,” said Dr. Sameer Arora, the study’s lead author.

There’s more bad news. You were probably thinking, I’m healthy and I live in a healthy environment. Think again. Although deaths from cardiovascular disease are highest in the South, rates are rising across the U.S. including Colorado which is ranked the healthiest state by the CDC and the Census Bureau.

“It’s everywhere,” said Judy Hanna, senior advisor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Million Hearts, a federal initiative to prevent heart attacks and strokes, in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Health officials cite a number of factors threatening to rob Colorado of its historically healthy status. High blood pressure, drug and alcohol use, stress and a lack of physical activity – even in an exercise-mad
state – also play a role, they say.

What counter measures can be taken to stem the tide especially when fit, athletic individuals are also at risk?

  1. Learn, know and report family history of heart disease.
  2. Have a minimum of yearly cardiovascular screening
  3. Report any unusual chest or back pains to your physician immediately

Obesity continues to be a major contributor to heart disease. Physicians like Dr. Rosenbaum recommend:

  1. Lifestyle changes i.e. increased movement, healthier eating, increased mindfulness
  2. Risk factor management i.e. manage stress, decrease smoking, know personal data
  3. Monitor well-being

Easier said than done. It appears that knowledge is power. Understanding that heart disease can strike regardless of age, geography or physical fitness is step one. Understanding one’s own risk is step two. Acting on personal risk management is step three.

Advanced mobile technology can serve as a vital tool in personal risk management.