When people talk about heart disease, it’s often with the thought that it only happens in old age. However, in recent years, heart disease has also become a problem for younger adults. This is partly because the conditions that lead to heart disease like stress, lack of sleep, and bad eating habits are all happening at younger ages.
Almost half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.
But heart conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and other types of heart disease aren’t always caused by age. Sometimes, heart disease can be caused by factors that are out of your control. Here are four reasons why your heart disease may not be your fault after all.
Depression doesn’t just affect the mind, it can also impact your entire body, including your heart. Depression causes your body to release high amounts of stress hormones. This causes inflammation throughout your body and damages your arteries, which can lead to artherosclerosis.
This mental condition can also affect your lifestyle. Depression can make you lose your appetite, so you end up eating less than you usually do. The less you eat, the less energy you have. Consequently, without energy, you don’t feel like exercising. You also don’t sleep well. Lack of sleep has been found to negatively impact heart and brain health.
According to the American Heart Association, teenagers who suffer from depression or bipolar disorder should be monitored for early heart disease because their mental illness puts them at early risk for cardiovascular disease.
2. Air Pollution
There’s a lot of scientific evidence that proves air pollution can contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease. Outdoor particle pollution in particular is known to trigger heart attacks and deaths in people with pre-existing conditions, and can also lead to increased risk of mortality in the long-term. All of this research is compiled by the EPA and other similar organizations.
When you breathe in poor quality air, the air pollutants can travel deep into your bloodstream through your lungs, and to your heart. These air pollutants can damage your blood vessels causing them to become narrower and stiffer. This increases your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.
Major sources of air pollution include power plants, factories, automobiles, and wildfire smoke. These places are well-documented to produce the highest amount of PM2.5.
PM stands for particulate matter (also called particle pollution), which can be found year-round and is responsible for the air quality problems in many developed countries.
How small is 2.5 micrometers? The largest PM is 30 times smaller than your average human hair, which is about 70 micrometers in diameter. These microscopic particles can remain in the air for days to weeks.
The latest research shows that some populations may be at higher risk of PM2.5-related health effects, which may include heart disease. These include people who have health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and obesity.
3. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH)
Having high cholesterol levels is a warning sign of heart disease. Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is a genetic disorder that affects about 1 in 250 people and increases the likelihood of having coronary heart disease at a younger age. The genetic condition FH causes your body to reach levels above 190 mg of low density lipoprotein, which is also known as the “bad” LDL cholesterol.
People born with this condition tend to have problems associated with high cholesterol such as atherosclerosis. Studies have found that 50% of men with untreated FH will develop a heart attack or angina before they turn 50. For women, 30% will have a heart attack before they turn 60.
FH causes the body to develop artery disease earlier in life and more rapidly compared to people born without the condition.
Awareness is crucial, because only 10 percent of all FH cases are diagnosed. Meaning that a lot of people go through life without ever knowing they have this condition. Here are some physical signs that may show up if you’re young and have FH:
- Bumps or lumps around your knees, knuckles, or elbows.
- Swollen or painful Achilles tendon.
- Yellowish areas around your eyes.
- A whitish gray color in the shape of a half-moon on the outside of your cornea.
4. Pregnancy complications
Women who develop certain conditions like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or gain excessive weight or go into preterm labor during pregnancy have a higher risk of early heart disease. That’s because pregnancy-exclusive conditions are often linked to artery-related problems.
For example, gestational diabetes raises your risk of high blood pressure, as well as preeclampsia, which causes high blood pressure in pregnant women. Both of these complications can damage your blood vessels and arteries causing them to become narrower.
If you or a loved one experiences pregnancy-related problems make sure to consult with your doctor, or even a cardiologist about it.