Heart health advice for every age

[3 min read]

  • Heart disease can affect anyone, at any age. 
  • Genetics plays a major role in heart health, but lifestyle is a critical factor in lowering  heart disease risk. 
  • A Providence Swedish cardiology expert has tips for making better choices that will help keep your heart healthy for years to come. 

Cynthia Warner, M.D., a cardiologist at Providence Swedish, was concerned, but not surprised, that her youngest patient is 30 years old.

“Heart disease can happen at any age,” says Dr. Warner. And in a concerning trend around the country, around 5% of adults over 20 years of age may have coronary artery disease.

“People of all ages can have heart disease,” agrees John Waggoner III, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Providence Cardiology Associates.

While this news is alarming, there are several factors that can help determine your risk of heart disease, and steps everyone can take today to reduce the risk of serious outcomes.


Heart disease is the general term for several types of heart conditions and is the leading cause of death in the United States.

“Heart disease is when plumbing is blocked up,” says Dr. Waggoner, referring to a disruption of blood flow through arteries and veins.

The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease, which can lead to heart attack. Every year, some 800,000 Americans have a heart attack, and 75% of those are first-time heart attacks. Those who have a first-time heart attack may not even know they had heart disease, says Dr. Warner. Lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

“You want to catch and prevent heart disease before it becomes more significant,” Dr. Warner says.


One of the most significant risk factors for heart disease is family history. Genetics play a major role in our medical history, so being aware of your family member’s health issues and discussing them with your doctor can help you stay a step ahead.

Elevated cholesterol is a major contributor to heart disease. Whether it’s rooted in genetics or lifestyle, a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries and veins creates a blockage in the pathway of blood flow. When the blockage grows enough and blood flow is compromised, untreated heart disease may result in heart attack or stroke.

Managing your stress levels and weight can also help reduce the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating well and focusing on whole, nutrient-dense foods.


When watching for signs of heart disease issues, “the symptoms don’t respect age groups,” Dr. Warner says. Symptoms usually start at a mild level and become more noticeable over time.

Traditional symptoms of heart disease and related issues include chest pain, which signals poor blood flow to the heart, pressure, or shortness of breath with activities or exercise. Heart disease can lead to leg swelling and pain, uneven heartbeat, and shortness of breath.

But heart disease can look different, particularly for older people, people with diabetes, and women. The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign helped raise awareness that women may have more unusual symptoms — fatigue, weakness, and referred or displaced pain — but the fact remains that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.


Heart conditions are serious and can be very scary. The good news is that even small changes can start lowering your risk right away. It’s never too early to start paying attention to your heart health. When healthy habits and lifestyle choices are created before the age of 40, you may reduce your risk of heart problems.

In addition to making heart-healthy choices about diet, smoking and exercise, seeing your doctor regularly to monitor your overall health is key.

Work with your doctor to address your family history, manage weight and stress, and create healthy lifestyle habits that can set you on track to keep your heart pumping for years to come.

Learn more and find a practitioner

Call 866-411-5375 to find a heart specialist and make an appointment. You can learn more about the advanced heart treatments and services available at Providence Swedish by visiting Swedish.org/heartcare.  You can also visit the Swedish website to learn more about health and safety classes offered at Swedish, including CPR training.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Contact Swedish Primary Care to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider. You can also connect virtually with your clinician to review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. And with Swedish ExpressCare Virtual you can receive treatment in minutes for common conditions such as colds, flu, urinary tract infections, and more. You can use our provider directory to find a specialist or primary care physician near you. 

Information for patients and visitors 

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

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