Hearts are sacred.
They are a symbol of love. They are often one of the first shapes we learn to draw. They are chocolates and candies inscribed with expressions of adoration like “be mine.” They are used to describe the singular importance of a place, person or thing. They are arguably the most important muscle in the body, pumping blood and maintaining our lifeforce.
Simply put, they’re everything.
The problem is, they aren’t treated as such until it’s often too late.
What if we told you that a new study1 finds that cardiac-related health conditions have a similar prevalence across all age groups? As is turns out, prevalence of heart conditions only differs across generations by 10%, with Baby Boomers (aged 58+) reporting 23%, Gen X-ers (42 to 57) 17%, Millennials (26 to 41) 13%, and Gen Z-ers (18 to 25) 15%.
Cardiac health isn’t something to push off caring about until we reach middle age or older. Anyone, at any age, can be at risk of heart-related health conditions, and it’s never too early to prioritize your heart health.
To better understand attitudes toward and barriers to heart failure, we conducted a study of American adults and found that heart conditions have a similar prevalence across generations. Even Gen Z had higher rates of heart conditions than Millennials.
And the gap in prevalence between elder generations and younger generations wasn’t as large as some may expect – occurrence of heart conditions amongst Gen X only surpassed that of Gen Z by 2%, with 17% to 15%, respectively.
To put that in perspective, with 15% of Gen Z-ers potentially living with a cardiac condition, around 1 in 6 of them are at risk. In a group of six 20-somethings hitting the town together, one may need to get checked.
As you can tell, caring for your heart has no age requirement.
Just ask Avery Jaster, a 22-year-old equestrian and college student, who was diagnosed with Class III heart failure. She was riding her horse when she felt her “heart jump,” – the dizziness made her fall to the ground, prompting her to see a cardiologist.
“Looking back, I think there was definitely something going on sooner that we just weren’t aware of,” Avery said. But it can be difficult, especially at 22, to know to pursue heart health. Our survey found that 60% of those who experienced symptoms of heart conditions didn’t feel they were serious enough to seek medical treatment. But among that group, 41% did have a heart-related condition.
With the help of her cardiology team and our CardioMEMS HF System, Avery got back in the saddle, and is now studying to work in cardiology herself. That may not have been the case if she hadn’t prioritized her heart health. She’s a prime example of how younger generations should listen to their hearts.
Still, there are barriers to getting checked out.
- 21% of Gen Z respondents said they were concerned about long wait times for care.
- 13% of Millennials said they worried about lack of insurance or health coverage needed to see a cardiologist or specialist.
- 17% of Gen X respondents reported being concerned about COVID-19 exposure upon seeking treatment.
- 17% of Baby Boomers said that they felt that their primary doctor would tell them that their symptoms were nothing to worry about anyway.
And across all age groups, 44% indicated at least some continuing negative change in behavior in regard to taking care of their heart health, such as skipping or delaying a routine primary care visit, because of the pandemic and/or other reasons.
In addition, 20% of those with heart conditions are still delaying primary care visits.
Those are barriers that we’re dedicated to breaking down. The results of this study help us understand what is needed for improving care, diminishing misperception and misinformation surrounding cardiac risk and encouraging open dialogue between physicians and their patients about heart health.
As a start, check out the below symptoms of heart-related health conditions to gauge whether you may need to seek care ASAP:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Racing or slow heartbeat
- Irregular heartbeats
- Swollen feet, legs, ankles, stomach or hands
- Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper belly area or back
Because heart conditions have no age requirement and symptoms can be difficult to identify, get in a heart-healthy habit by scheduling and keeping routine physicals. It’s also important to seek education from a healthcare professional to proactively discuss symptoms and potential risk. Be your biggest advocate and remember that early intervention is key.
Our hearts are sacred at any and every age. From the bottom of ours, take care of yours.
1Data on file at Abbott, December 2022.