By Jonathan Woon
Staff reporter

Each year, one million American youths die of heart attacks. A study by the American Heart Association proved and suggested that myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, is no longer only a problem for the elderly. Much has changed and adolescents have been reported as heart attack victims more frequently.

Why is this happening? Are we aware of the rising number of such cases among youths today? An unhealthy diet is definitely one of the reasons for heart attacks among youths. The American Heart Association reports the average daily soda and junk food consumed by American adolescents is said to be equivalent to 34 teaspoon of sugar. This is four times the amount of recommended sugar intake (eight teaspoons per day).

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports between 16 and 33 percent of children and teenagers are obese due to too much sugar intake in their diet. As a result, there has been a sharp rise in obesity-related problems. Thus, more and more adolescents are prone to heart attacks.  Jane Kaufman, family nurse practitioner with a practice in primary care, said, “Over time, a condition known as hyperlipidemia occurs if the sugary diet does not change.” Hyperlipidemia refers to the elevation of lipids, or fats, in the bloodstream. These lipids include cholesterol, cholesterol esters, compounds, phospholipids and triglycerides. They’re transported in the blood as part of large molecules called lipoproteins. “Arteries are blocked and the heart attack takes place,” Kaufman said.

Smoking is another cause of heart attack. The Centers for Disease Control reports about three million teens are smokers and about 4,000 teens start smoking  each day. Cigarette and tobacco smoking causes peripheral vascular disease, a condition in the vessels that supplies blood to the arms and legs. Nicotine not only increases heart rate but also tightens major arteries, and creates irregularities in the timing of heartbeats, all of which make the heart work harder.

It is not just feeble youths who experience heart attacks. Strong, tough and healthy youths also experience heart attacks. www.sciencedaily.com reports those who exercise on a regular basis tend to have a high chance of contracting the disease as well. “Genetics can cause heart attack and there is no reason why healthy young people should not have heart attack.” Athletes are the common group of healthy youths that often suffer from acute and sudden heart attacks. Despite regular exercise and a healthy diet, the one thing that youth neglect is checking for any trace and future possibilities of contracting the disease such as a cholesterol level check up. An echo cardiogram and angioplasty are popular procedures that help determine whether one is prone to contracting the disease.

Researchers at the Heidelberg University Hospital show that healthy athletes usually experience spasms of a coronary artery during a heart arrest. During a coronary spasm, the coronary arteries restrict or spasm on and off, reducing blood supply to the heart muscle (ischemia). It may occur due to excessive over load on the heart. This is a common cause of athletes collapsing during a game. Most medical professionals agree that the prevailing reason to such a condition among young people is family history. Kaufman said “There are no visible symptoms in such cases. All of a sudden, it attacks.”

Jonathan Woon is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail him at jonathan.woon@sckans.edu.