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Denver medical professionals urge younger people to take heart health more seriously

Denver medical professionals urge younger people to take heart health more seriously
Denver medical professionals urge younger people to take heart health more seriously 02:28

As a cardiac nurse, Jennifer Harlan knows the signs of a heart attack, but despite that, she too didn't take her symptoms seriously.

"I've spent all my nursing career, sort of looking at people who've ignored the symptoms of a heart attack," said Harlan. "But when it's you, you realize how easy it is to talk yourself out of it, 'you don't have time for this, you're too healthy, you're too young.'"

At only 52 years old, Harlan's had not just one, but two heart attacks. Her earliest happened at the age of 47. It's something she never imagined could happen to her. Just days prior to Harlan's first heart attack, her dad died.

"I had no family history. I had no low blood pressure, low cholesterol," she said. "I was a healthy woman, and I still had a heart attack."

Which is why during American Heart Month, Harlan is sharing her story. On Wednesday, Harlan and doctors spoke about women's heart health at Rose Medical Center in Denver.

Dr. Sam Mehta, the director of Cardiac Cath Lab, said no one is free of the danger.

"For a long time, I think we thought heart disease was a disease of old people, and that when we were young, we were super protected, and particularity those patients who have family histories of heart disease, we're finding that they have heart attacks in their 20s, 30s, 40s, when they were otherwise healthy," said Mehta.  

A recent survey found that even though heart attacks are becoming more common in younger people, many don't believe they are at risk.

"There's a reason this is a silent killer, and we don't have knowledge we're doing bad things to our body until we actually have an event, and high cholesterol is a perfect example," he said.

Mehta added that other factors contributing to heart attacks at younger ages are stress, alcohol, and less physical activity.

Through this journey, Harlan learned she had a rare heart condition called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, or SCAD. She also believes that stress from father's death may have contributed. Harlan hopes that by sharing her story with the public, it will motivate others to listen to their bodies.

"You have to make time, if something feels not right, trust your instincts," Harlan said.

For more information on the symptoms of a heart attack visit:

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