How Common Are Heart Attacks In Young People Today?

Félicité Tomlinson, a social media influencer and sister to pop star Louis Tomlinson, died on Wednesday at the age of 18.

While her death is currently being treated as "unexplained" it's reported that she suffered a heart attack -- despite having had "absolutely no warning signs" and "no prior history of heart trouble" according to TMZ.

Paramedics were called to her London apartment and made extensive efforts to revive her but the teen was pronounced dead at the scene.

So, just how common are heart attacks among young people?

READ MORE: Identifying And Treating Heart Attacks May Get A Lot Easier

Bill Stavreski, general manager of Heart Health at the Heart Foundation Australia told 10 daily that it is very rare for people as young as 18 to have a heart attack or cardiac arrest, but it is possible.

"Heart attacks are more likely to occur in older adults whereas cardiac arrests -- aka sudden cardiac deaths -- may occur more frequently in younger people, but are still rare,' he explained.

The most common risk factors for cardiac arrest in young people are genetic cardiac conditions although lifestyle factors like smoking, blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, nutrition and alcohol intake can come into play.

Gender, family history, ethnicity and, of course, age all play a role too.

So, while heart attacks are rare in young people Stavreski stresses that awareness of key risk factors is important no matter how old you are.

Image: Getty.

"Start to think about your risk factors now. The sooner you identify and manage your risk factors, the better your chances of leading a heart-healthy life," he said.

"Cardiac arrest is different to a heart attack and the symptoms and management are also different," Stavreski explained.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating and is often caused by an electrical problem that causes the heart muscle to beat ineffectively.

In contrast, a heart attack happens when there is a sudden complete blockage of an artery that supplies blood to an area of your heart.

A person experiencing a heart attack will usually be alert and breathing while in a cardiac arrest, the person will not be conscious or breathing normally.

Heart attack and women

It may come as a surprise but women are twice as likely as men to die from a heart attack, a recent study reported.

Ninety percent of Aussie women have at least one risk factor of heart disease and over half have two or more, according to stats from the Heart Foundation.

The most common risk factors affecting women are high cholesterol, being overweight or obese and lack of exercise. Preeclampsia and gestational diabetes can also increase the risk.

If you experience any of these, it's best to see your doc.

It's also important for women to note that heart attack symptoms can vary between genders.

Women are, for example, less likely to have full-blown chest pain and more likely to have "subtler" symptoms for three or four weeks before a heart attack, said doctors from the Cleveland Health Clinic in the US.

This includes uncharacteristic tiredness, especially after simple activities and shortness of breath and sweating. The clinic also noted pain in the neck, back, jaw and both arms as symptoms that should raise the alarm for women.

READ MORE: Women More Likely To Die From Heart Attack If Treated By Men

Women less likely to get CPR

Women are also less likely to receive life-saving aid such as CPR after suffering a heart attack according to data compiled by the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium, a network of regional clinical centres in the US and Canada.

The researchers found that 45 percent of men received CPR from bystanders in public settings compared to just 39 percent of women.

Turns out that fear around inappropriate touching or being accused of sexual assault are holding people -- particularly men -- back from assisting women in need of CPR.

Image: Getty.

There are also concerns around causing physical injury and a misconception that breasts make CPR more challenging -- plus a poor understanding of women in cardiac arrest.

Red Cross Australia senior first aid trainer, Janie McCullagh told 10 daily the organisation continues to bust myths so people are empowered to be first responders.

"CPR can be done clothed, removing bulky clothing, and applying a defibrillator is really the only scenario which requires direct contact to the skin -- and embarrassment shouldn't get in the way of saving a person's life," she said.

Feature image: Instagram/@felicitegrace.

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