CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – February is Heart Month, Americans are urged to learn about preventing and treating heart disease, the number one killer in the U.S.

Heart disease can happen at any age. When it comes to heart health, typically the focus is on older adults. However, heart problems, including heart disease are also an issue for the younger population.

Dr. Andrew M. Goldsweig. MD Cardiology, Interventional Cardiology, Structural Heart Disease Cardiology, and Valvular Disease Cardiology told 22News, “some people develop cardiovascular disease and clinical manifestations of cardiovascular disease at a young age. There are people who have a very strong history and genetic predisposition.”

Dr. Goldsweig says obesity is a contributor to heart disease. With nearly 1 in 6 children and adolescents experiencing obesity in the US. Obesity could lead to risk factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even metabolic syndrome, and these conditions left unchecked could cause heart disease.

A study from the CDC found that 1 in 77 children here in the US had a heart condition in 2016
and undiagnosed, untreated congenital heart defects, can also be a risk factor. “So abnormal blood vessels, holes in the chamber of the heart, may present in childhood, or if they are small enough and well compensated, may present later in life in teenage years and young adulthood,” adds Dr. Goldsweig.

Signs of a heart condition in adolescents and children include the following:

• Shortness of breath while being active

• Passing out during physical activity

• Heart palpitations

• Chest Pain

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, health experts say you should contact their doctor immediately to have them screened. The CDC reports most Americans, including children, eat too many sodium-rich foods, which can increase blood pressure, and chances of heart disease.