Heart Attack Symptoms in Teenagers

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  • 0:00 Heart Attack Demographics
  • 0:48 What Is a Heart Attack?
  • 2:38 Signs and Symptoms
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Geralyn Vilar
This lesson addresses the pre-conceived notion that teenagers are too young to have a heart attack and the signs and symptoms of teenage heart attack victims. In addition, the lesson will cover the general signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

Heart Attack Demographics

It's difficult to imagine that a teenager can have a heart attack. After all, the popular notion is that people who get heart attacks are older, overweight, sedentary (don't get up and move much), and out of shape. More often than not, people think of a heart attack victim as a middle aged or older male with belly fat who sits around over indulging in high calorie, high fat foods.

Think again! The truth is, anyone can experience a heart attack. A heart attack is neither age nor gender specific. Victims can be men, women, or children. Therefore, it's important to know the typical signs and symptoms of a heart attack as well as symptoms specific to gender and age. In this lesson, we'll focus on the signs and symptoms of teenage heart attack victims.

What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack, known medically as a myocardial infarction, occurs when an area of the heart doesn't get enough oxygen. It's this lack of oxygen that causes pain. A lack of oxygen causes the tissues of the heart to die ('myocardial' means heart muscle and 'infarction' means death). If the lack of oxygen is in a small area, there is minor damage to the heart. If the lack of oxygen spans a large area of the heart, the damage is major. Often the lack of oxygen is due to a blockage in a blood vessel that supplies the heart. This is rarely true for teenagers. In most cases, a teenager who falls victim to a heart attack has an underlying heart condition that was present at birth and went unnoticed. Other causes include the use of cocaine, pericarditis (inflammation, or irritation and swelling, surrounding the heart), myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), and the use of synthetic cannabinoids, which is the product spice or K2.

When a patient is experiencing chest pain, one of the two of the most important screening tests is an ECG (electrocardiogram), which is an electrical tracing of the heart beats. The tracings show waves which correspond to the heart beat. These waves are in a specific sequence and are referred to as P, Q, R, S, and T waves. During a heart attack the S and T waves can be elevated. Teenage heart attack victims can have non-specific S, T segment or T wave changes on their ECG, but not always.

The other important test looks for cardiac enzymes, enzymes found in the blood that, when present, indicate injury to the heart muscle. Cardiac enzymes come from inside heart muscle cells and don't show up in the blood immediately after injury to the heart muscle. Therefore, if a heart attack is suspected, cardiac enzyme blood tests are taken three different times to see if the enzymes are present or continuing to rise.

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