Most people know that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., but did you know you can have heart problems at any age? Nurse Rose Melendez, director of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center, explains how young people can keep their hearts healthy. 

Why are we seeing heart disease in younger people?

Nurse Rose: There can be a number of reasons that a person experiences heart problems, but with obesity on the rise, doctors are seeing a trend of heart disease developing earlier in adulthood. Problems like chest pain, clogged arteries and even heart attack, typically seen in patients over age 45, are being seen in some 30-year-olds.

How can young people protect their hearts?

Nurse Rose: It’s actually never too early to start heart-healthy habits. In fact, you can start keeping an eye on your kids’ heart health from birth by following these tips.

  • Check the child’s blood pressure beginning at age 3
  • Screen for cholesterol levels between ages 9 to 11
  • Encourage healthy eating habits, including lots of fruits and veggies
  • Promote physical activity at home and at school
  • Get an annual physical

These tips are very similar for young adults — the most important things are a healthy diet, exercise and not smoking.

Can you still have heart problems even if you live a healthy lifestyle?

Nurse Rose: Despite proper diet and lots of exercise, some people still develop heart problems. For example, heart rhythm disorders – also called arrhythmias –can affect young adults who are otherwise very healthy.

How do you know if you have a heart rhythm problem?

Nurse Rose: Watch out for these signs and symptoms of a heart rhythm problem.

  • Heart palpitations
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • A sensation that your heart skips a beat
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in your chest
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Cardiac arrest (heart stops beating)

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Rose Melendez, RN

Rose Melendez, RN

Head of Emergency Department

Rose Melendez, RN is the head of the Emergency Department and Nursing Administration at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center. Tune into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. to listen to Nurse Rose live on the radio.

Take our free online Heart Risk Assessment during Heart Month this February for a chance to win a D.C. getaway.