Myth Busted: Young People Do Get Heart Disease

MAY 31, 2017
Amy Jacob

At AAPA 2017 in Las Vegas, Jennifer Carlquist PA-C, ER, CAQ said that she believed clinicians are trained in medicine to think heart disease is “an old person’s disease,” so they don’t have it on their radar for the young people (teen years through mid-30s). 
Carlquist wanted to address this myth that young people don’t get heart disease and explained that her lecture focused on cases of young people who actually either went into cardiac arrest from heart disease or had other congenital abnormalities that were never detected: like brugada syndrome and hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy.
“While those are not technically heart disease as we think of on a day-to-day basis, because we think of HD as coronary artery disease, you can’t find the other symptoms unless you think about them.”
Carlquist touched on an interesting case of a 24-year-old who told her physician for months that she had chest pain, but she was told she’s young, “you can’t have heart disease; you’re fine, you’re probably just anxious.” As a result, no one did an EKG on her. Instead, her heart disease was discovered during a diabetic episode. She was given D50, because of her low blood sugar, and immediately said she had chest pain when she woke up. She received an EKG and went in with blood glucose level of 30 and ended up going home with two stents. Her patient history explained she was anemic, hypertensive, and a diabetic dialysis patient at 24, so this did make sense.
According to Carlquist, the advance in technology would spark an increase in reports of younger patients with heart disease.  Clinicians are also recommending more younger patients to get their calcium scores checked, which could potentially find the disease even before it happens.
With a calcium score, a patient with hyperlipidemia or hypertension can actually see a physical picture of what’s in his arteries and immediately change his lifestyle before his condition becomes serious.
Carlquist concluded, “I think we’re trying to focus on prevention more. I think we as providers, knowing that young people need stents, have to cast a wider net. The clinical likelihood that a 25-30-year-old with chest pain having a coronary event is low, but it’s still possible.” 

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