27 Sept 22 Article 01

Does Heart Attack Only Happens in Older Age?

Everyone knows that the risk of heart attack increases with age, but do you know that it can happen to younger people as well? Statistics show that 24.5% of heart disease patients in Malaysia are below the age of 50. (1)

As heart disease remains the number one killer in Malaysia (2), it is important to note that the major risk factors of heart diseases, which are high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, are on the rise and happening to younger people as well.

nhms2019 cvd

Source: National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019

According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey Year 2019 (NHMS 2019), approximately 42% of adults with high cholesterol levels were below 50 years old. For high blood pressure, it was 30% whereas for high blood sugar it was 33%. (3) Due to the high prevalence of these risk factors among younger people, it should not come as a surprise that heart attack cases are getting younger.

Who is at risk?

Chronic diseases like heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are a result of an unhealthy lifestyle and behaviour. Here are some lifestyle behaviours or conditions that can increase the risk of heart diseases:

1. Being overweight or obese

Excess fat accumulation in the body causes fat build up in the blood vessels and puts burden on the heart as it needs to pump harder to circulate blood around the body.  This increased pressure causes damage to the blood vessels, leading to the narrowing of the blood vessels, and thus, increasing the risk of a heart attack. (4,5)

atherosclerosis illustration2

Source: heartandstroke.ca


2. Unhealthy eating habits

Unhealthy eating patterns are one of the main contributors to heart diseases. Most Malaysians, especially young people, love food and with Malaysia being a food paradise, often at times we can’t resist a few more extra bites and tend to overindulge in high fat and high sugary food. Eating too much salty food can also cause high blood pressure, and thus, increasing the risk of heart diseases.

unhealthy eating habit scaled

3. Sedentary lifestyle

Besides dietary intake, physical inactivity and long hours of sitting time can also cause weight gain and increase the risk of chronic diseases.

sedentary lifestyle scaled

How to keep your heart healthy

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds such as chia seeds and almonds are a good source of healthy fats. Eating one handful daily provides benefits to the heart.
  • Limit intake of fats and oils such as cooking oil, margarine, and butter to 3 teaspoons per day
  • Limit salt intake to 1 teaspoon per day



  1. A Wan Ahmad. (Ed). Annual Report of the NCVD-ACS Registry, 2018–2019. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: National Cardiovascular Disease Database, 2022. Department of Statistics 2021
  2. Department of Statistics Malaysia. Statistics on Causes of Death, Malaysia, 2021. Kuala Lumpur: Department of Statistics Malaysia; 2021.
  3. Institute for Public Health. Non-communicable diseases, healthcare demand, and health literacy; National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 [internet]. 2020 May 30 [cited 2022 Sept 15] Available from: http://iku.moh.gov.my/index.php/nhms/nhms-2019
  4. Powell-Wiley T, Poirier P, Burke L, Despres J, Gordon-Larsen P. Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. AHA Journal. 2021;143(21):984-1010.
  5. Obesity [Internet]. Bhf.org.uk. 2022 [cited 15 September 2022]. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/obesity

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