How to prevent heart disease at an early age

February is American Heart Month, and more students should be keeping that in mind. Actually, in a recent survey of 4,000 young adults, 65 percent of them could not name six risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD). Though the majority of heart attacks occur at the age of 65, the key to prevention is healthy habits at a young age.

“I think that almost every young person believes that they are indestructible,” stated Tom Johnson, director of campus wellness. “Nothing bad will ever happen to them. I have seen children and young adults die because of disease.”

Johnson, who has been working at the college for over 15 years, taught high school physical education. He also helped to write Michigan’s Exemplary Physical Education Curriculum and served on the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports.

“Take care of yourself,” Johnson said. “As you grow old, your health dictates the quality of your life and a lot of times the length of it.”

CAD, which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke, can be caused by smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and a lack of exercise. Paige Trudeau, Howell sophomore, is studying kinesiology and works at the Dow.

“Working at the Dow during peak times has allowed me to see that a large number of people go there regularly to workout,” Trudeau said. “It’s great to see that students are so conscious of maintaining good health.”

Dr. Brad Rabquer, professor of biology, emphasizes the importance of cardiovascular screenings at a young age, especially for athletes. Cardiac Hypertrophy, or an enlarged hearts, can cause death in the student-age population.

“Cardiac Hypertrophy certainly pops up in younger people,” Rabquer said. “That’s the big thing with athletic testing when they do physicals. That’s a leading cause of sudden death for younger-age people in their teens and early 20s. It goes undiagnosed, and you never know that you have the enlarged heart or hypertrophy. So you’re under intense physical activity at a sporting event, and then you get this sudden loss of heart function.”

Rabquer suggests two simple ways to prevent these types of cardiovascular diseases.

“Diet and exercise,” Rabquer said. “It’s no joke.”

Photo by Megan Sheridan

About Nicholas Diamond 50 Articles
Nick is a junior from Rochester, Mich., majoring in French and minoring in cell and molecular biology. He has interests in serving Doctors Without Borders and in writing medical journalism. Follow him on Twitter @docteur_diamond.

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