Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in America, according to the Center for Disease Control and Preventions.
February is National Heart Disease Awareness Month, and Heather Kleeman, with Sanford Health, said it’s important for students to take preventative measures in their 20s and 30s to avoid getting heart disease later in life.
“It’s great to get started thinking about that early on for prevention purposes later in life,” Kleeman said. “As we’re younger, we develop heart disease by what we do, eat, health, exercise and we can prevent a lot of that in the future when you hit your 40s, 50s, 60s in the prevention of strokes and heart attacks.”
Kleeman said the biggest thing she thinks college students can work on is their diet.
“Fast food is not great for the heart, avoid saturated fats is probably the biggest one, so that’s going to be anything fried,” Kleeman said. “Try to incorporate more healthy vegetables into the diet, leafy green vegetables, kind of looking at the Mediterranean diet using healthy fats, olive oils, for cooking. Try to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol intake and smoking.”
Curtis Krempges, a nurse at Sanford Heart Hospital, said the ideal age for someone to get a heart screening is anyone between 40 to 75.
“That tends to be the range when you start to see plaque building,” Krempges said. “That doesn’t mean it can’t build sooner, it’s just not as common, but it can happen in younger people.”
Kleeman said people in their 20s and 30s don’t have a reason to check for heart disease unless they have a strong family history of it.
“We do recommend a cholesterol screening in your 20s or 30s and that’s just for familial genetic things that could cause your cholesterol to be really high,” Kleeman said. “That’s things that you can’t prevent so it’s good to have that done once in your 20s or 30s. Other than that, unless you have strong genetic risk factors, not too many things to worry about besides your exercise. Getting thirty minutes five times a week to help with your heart.”
As for heart health in general, Kleem said the biggest thing to watch for is “typical chest pains.”
“So if you’re exercising and you’re having difficulties breathing or pressure or pain in your chest than that would be something to go in and get checked out,” Kleeman said.