Heart Problems: What Age Do They Start?

  • 1st Revision: Tooba Shaker [Linkedin]
  • 2nd Revision: Manisha Kuttetira
  • 3rd Revision: Shikha Javaharlal

The notion of heart diseases arising in elderly has changed as people between 35-64 are most likely to encounter heart problems. 

As obesity and high blood pressure are on the rise; high cholesterol and smoking are other factors that trigger heart disease. 

There are many ways one can combat this killer disease and it involves being proactive about risk factors and taking positive measures to make lifestyle changes. 

This article discusses the risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and how the symptoms can be better diagnosed early so you can manage your clinical status better. 


Cardiovascular disease affected 17.9 million people in 2019, constituting about 32% of global mortality. 85% of these were due to heart attack, stroke and premature deaths and those dying were below the age of 70, from the non-communicable diseases were reported to be at 17 million people which constituted about  38% of CVD. 

The heart is a muscular organ and its functions are to pump blood to all parts of the body, regulate body water, transfer nutrients to multiple parts of the body and maintain optimum body temperature. 

There are many heart conditions one can suffer from, including coronary heart disease, stable angina pectoris, myocarditis, myocardial infarction, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure, and cardiac arrest. It can occur at any age and can result in poor quality of life.  

Read this article to identify the myriad risk factors that can beset you and put you on the path to a lifetime of unhealthy heart disorders and diseases. 

Congenital Heart Conditions

Congenital heart dysfunction is the most common birth deformity and also the most common cause of death in newborns. One of the significant factors which play a role in reducing the risk of CVD is the use of multivitamins and folic acid during pregnancy. Some of the risk factors associated with this type of condition would be maternal illness such as phenylketonuria, maternal diabetes, rubella, influenza, obesity, HIV, and systemic lupus erythematosus. Pregnant women should not consume the following medication: thalidomide, retinoids, antibiotics like ampicillin and penicillin, antiviral agents like zidovudine, antifungals like fluconazole, corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen and indomethacin and drugs of the class of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors for maternal hypertension. 

It is also believed that caffeine, alcohol, cigarette smoking, cocaine and marijuana are abetting risk factors for congenital heart anomalies in newborns. Some additional risk factors include age, race, family background, environmental exposure to toxic chemicals like organic solvents, pesticides and rodenticides, and groundwater contamination. It is advisable to discuss options with your physician/cardiologist for better treatment options while trying to conceive as precautions and modifications to lifestyle could prevent deformations and CVD in newborns. 

Some types of congenital heart dysfunctions include Ebstein's anomaly, aortic stenosis, atrioventricular septal defects, autism spectrum disorders, coarctation of aorta, truncus arteriosus, pulmonary stenosis, hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and teratology of fallot .1

Cardiovascular Conditions that increase with age

The American Heart Association considers age a key risk factor and reports that CVD prevalence in people assigned male at birth (AMAB) and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) across ages as follows: 40% for 40-59, 75% for 60-79 years, 86% for ages above 80. There are additional risk factors for instance obesity, frailty and diabetes. 

The conditions that increase with age with regard to CVD are listed below and a brief description of what the disease is, accompanies it2:

  • Angina pectoris or chest tightness. It can also be angina pretoria without pain or silent ischemia 
  • Heart attack or acute coronary syndromes
  • Heart attack due to deterioration of the heart as a pumping organ with age 
  • Atrial fibrillation and hidden arrhythmias in asymptomatic patients 
  • Atherosclerosis, decreased elasticity and alteration in arteries

It would be insufficient in this article if we do not mention the risk factors for CVD other than age. 

Below are some risk factors for heart disease, and managing these could improve heart health. According to the American Heart Association, there are three types of risk factors which are:

  • Major risk factors - significantly cause heart disease
  • Modifiable risk factors - can be worked upon with tweaks and lifestyle changes 
  • Contributing risk factors - associated with CVD incidence but its contribution has not been gauged 

Why does risk increase with age?

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include age as a key factor due to a decrease in elasticity and an increase in disability in response to blood pressure. ardiovascular health is also affected by the atherosclerotic process that thickens the arterial walls in your ageing heart. This leads to an increase in blood pressure (due to stiffening of arteries), and results in a condition of hypertension. This is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disorders.

Increased load on the heart thereby increases the mass of the heart leading to hypertrophy, forming scar tissues and leads to below normal relaxation of the heartbeat, which could lead to arrhythmias of the heart. Extreme degree of fibrosis, also called senile aortic stenosis, could signal atherosclerosis and is also due to an increase in age.

Risk Factors

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity or unhealthy weight 
  • Diabetes 
  • Physical inactivity or lack of exercise 
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking 
  • People AMAB 
  • Poor nutrition and low on health diet methods
  • Excessive drinking and alcohol use

Why are heart attacks increasing in young people?

There are many reasons for heart disease and people in their 20s and 30s are becoming victims of heart health risk factors, some of which are also underlying or covert clinical issues. For instance, diabetes is a confounded concern and associated with being less active, having weight issues and additional metabolic problems like obesity. As with anything, prevention is better than cure and it is wise to ditch the bad habits.

Taking your heart health back into your hands

Stop smoking

Quitting smoking is an excellent way to deal with high cholesterol levels. This not only helps in bringing about better health but also has been proven to reduce the risk of cardiac disease in half.

Reduce your stress

Laughing, practising mindfulness, doing yoga, meditating, praying, listening to music and hiking are very good ways of dealing with stress according to beaumont.org.

Lower blood pressure

This is a key factor, especially for coronary artery disease, thus it must be tightly regulated. Salt raises blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and cigarette smoking can also increase blood pressure. Therefore, care must be taken to lower blood pressure in order to improve heart health. 

Lower cholesterol

Cholesterol can be lowered by being active physically, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a heart-healthy diet, and lowering type 2 diabetes. Adults should aim to get 150 minutes of moderately intense activity and 75 minutes of intense activity weekly. People below 18 must aim for 1 hour of activity every day. 


Heart disease is on the rise and  is affecting more adults of 30 and above. Consuming  less red meat and more fresh fruits and vegetables, swapping saturated fats with unsaturated fats, eating a fibre-rich diet and making healthy choices can help prevent this. Physical activity, abstinence from alcohol, and quitting smoking greatly reduces our chances of attaining heart diseases. 


  1. Jenkins K, Correa A, Feinstein J, Botto L, Britt A, Daniels S et al. Noninherited Risk Factors and Congenital Cardiovascular Defects: Current Knowledge. Circulation. 2007;115(23):2995-3014.
  2. Stern S, Behar S, Gottlieb S. Aging and Diseases of the Heart. Circulation. 2003;108(14).
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Aarthi Narayan

Master of Science (M.S.), Biological science, University of Illinois Chicago

Scientist with 10+ years of strong industry, academic experience in Molecular biology, Tissue culture, Protein purification techniques. Mid-level experience in Diagnostics and start-ups. Excellent at completing large scale projects and experiments with minimal supervision in a timely and efficient manner.

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