Just one week after social media mourned the sudden death of former Miss Teen Universe Lotte van der Zee, who suffered a fatal heart attack on her 20th birthday, the internet received another shock. Former One Direction star Louis Tomilson’s 18-year-old younger sister, Félicité Tomlinson, also died unexpectedly of a heart attack, after collapsing in her London apartment.
Alok Patel, MD, a pediatrician in New York, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the two public losses are proof that heart problems are not exclusively associated with old age. “Heart attacks are no longer just an old man, old age disease,” says Patel. “There are almost 360,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest every year [in America] and there is only about 10 percent of people surviving.”
Patel says that there are differences between a heart attack — which is when one of the vessels providing blood to the heart becomes blocked or clogged — and cardiac arrest, which is when the heart stops pumping. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists three major risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Patel says “poor lifestyle choices” — such as high sodium diets and stress — can impact this, too.
“More young people are actually getting heart attacks,” he says. “And there are stories of young women presenting with very vague signs of heart attacks.” Patel says the recent deaths of van der Zee and Tomlinson should be a warning sign.
“We now know that it affects young people from both genders,” says Patel. “Don’t let this scare you — heart attacks in young people are still extremely rare, but it’s important to know the symptoms.”
Among the things you should be looking out for: chest pain, shortness of breath, jaw pain, tingling sensations down your left arm, and increased sweating. If these symptoms are presenting themselves, Patel says it’s better to be safe than sorry. “What’s important is that we now know that women are just as at risk for having a heart attack,” he says. “All of their symptoms should be taken seriously.”
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