In today’s generation, due to the lifestyle of people, it is obvious that we experience different types of health issues. Some health issues can be caused due to improper diet whereas the others are caused due to bad fate. Heart attack is a condition which can occur to anyone irrespective of age or gender. Most people have a misconception that heart attack occurs only in people aged above 30 or 40, or in old people, and not in children or teenagers, but what most of them are unaware of is that heart attacks can occur in anyone.
Though most of the heart attacks are common in old people, or in overweight people, in the present day even teenagers and children are becoming a victim of this health condition. But this doesn’t mean that every child with a chest pain has a heart attack. There can be several reasons for a child getting chest pain, tagging everything as heart attack will only leave you in complete panic or confusion. So before making any personal conclusions, it is important that you consult a doctor and take the right treatment.
Read More: 11 Uncommon Signs of Heart Attack
A Guide for Heart Attack in Teenagers
Heart attacks in teenagers or children can be caused due to several factors. Since it is rare and not common, you will have to be vigilant when your child complains with any major chest pain. It is always recommended to consult a physician as soon as possible whenever your child complains about severe pain in the chest. Also it is important that you learn the signs and symptoms of teenage heart attacks.
What is a Heart Attack?
Heart attack is medically known as myocardial infarction(‘myocardial’ means heart muscle and ‘infarction’ means death), and occurs when an area of the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen which leads to chest pain. This lack of oxygen also causes the tissues of the heart to die. If the lack of oxygen is in a small area, there is minor damage to the heart and if it spans a large area of the heart, the damage is major. Lack of oxygen mainly causes due to a blockage in a blood vessel that supplies the heart.
A heart attack happens when the blood that flows to a section of heart muscle gets blocked. That section of heart muscle begins to die without a quick restoration of blood flow, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Causes of Heart Attack in Teenagers
Heart attacks in teenagers is a rare condition. In most of the cases, a teenager falls victim to a heart attack due to the following reasons:
- The individual has an underlying heart condition that was present at birth that went unnoticed
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy(enlarged cardiac muscle cells) an inherited disease
- Kawasaki disease (inflammation of blood vessels) which is also inherited
- Use of cocaine, pericarditis (inflammation, or irritation and swelling, surrounding the heart), myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle)
- Use of synthetic cannabinoids
- Being overweight which leads to Type II diabetes and increases in blood pressure and bad cholesterol
- Heavy smoking is also a strong risk factor for heart attacks
- Congenital heart abnormality(problem in the structure of the heart)
Symptoms or Signs of Heart Attack in Teenagers
Since younger people don’t believe they’re at risk of heart attacks, they might not get themselves to a hospital right away when experiencing warning signs. The signs don’t just show up before a heart attack, but some signs can be noticed days before you actually experience any serious pain in the chest. Also it is important that you keep a note on all the signs that your body gives you, because ignorance can lead to greater risk of heart diseases. These are some of the symptoms that warn you about something serious that might happen with your heart:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Chest discomfort, Cough that won’t quit
- Nausea, indigestion, stomach pain, heartburn
- Pain that spreads to the arm
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed
- Throat or Jaw pain and vomiting
- Getting exhausted easily
- Snoring, cold sweats
- Irregular heartbeat
- Swollen legs, feet, and ankles
Diagnosis and Treatment for Heart Attacks in Teenagers
The following tests will be done in case a doctor suspects the chances of having heart disease –
- ECG or electrocardiograph
- cardiac enzyme tests
- chest X-ray
During a sudden attack, taking immediate action is very important, rush them to the doctor immediately, and if you think it would take time to reach the doctor then use these methods to help the victim(only if you have the knowledge on how to do it). Immediate action can be taken by giving manual chest compressions, or a defibrillator.
After a heart attack the victim will be given certain medications or treatments. The aim of these measures is to prevent future occurrence of heart attacks. They may include:
- aspirin and other antiplatelets
- beta blockers
- ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors
- CABG or coronary artery bypass graft
Apart from the above medications, one will have to go through a surgery in case of a major heart attack. The surgeries namely – Coronary angioplasty and stenting, Coronary artery bypass surgery.
If the victim does not have any medical disease which caused heart attack then by maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help in preventing the risk of any heart disease.
- not smoking
- eating a balanced, healthful diet
- Doing regular exercise
- getting good quality sleep
- keeping alcohol intake down
- maintaining blood cholesterol at optimum levels
- keeping blood pressure at a safe level
- maintaining a healthy body weight
Is it Chest Pain or Heart Attack?
Many times it so happens that parents misunderstand a common chest pain with a heart attack. This can sound funny to others but we can understand the fear of every parent. So here are some points for you to understand the differences between common chest pain and heart disease.
- It can be a “Chest wall ” pain – Injury to the ribs, sternum or other bones in the chest and back can cause chest wall pain.
- Cold (upper respiratory infection) or persistent cough can cause soreness and pain in the chest area
- Children will describe acid reflux (“heartburn”) as chest pain
- Stress or anxiety may also bring on a feeling of chest pain.
- Pericarditis: an inflammation of the sac that surrounds the heart
- Myocarditis: a viral infection of the heart
- Arrhythmias: abnormal fast heart rhythms
- A blockage or other problems with the coronary arteries (the tiny vessels that carry oxygenated blood to the heart tissue)
- Dissection, or tearing, of the aorta, the main artery that directs blood from the heart out to the body
- Or it is just a “Heart murmur” – heart murmur is simply a noise heard between the beats of the heart, which is something you do not need to worry about.
If these are the symptoms and causes of your child’s chest pain then it can be treated soon, but along with a chest pain if your child also has a fever, is sweating or having trouble breathing, has a very rapid heart rate, is pale, or has severe pain like a ripping sensation, do not wait and get help immediately. Also, if there is a family history of “aortic dissection,” or tearing of the aorta, or of Marfan syndrome, an emergency evaluation is immediately needed.