Most people don’t relate college students and cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, without intervention, students are at an increased risk of CVD. Various misconceptions exist regarding heart disease in young adults, including that heart disease only affects men and that it’s only caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. In reality, heart disease kills the same proportion of men and women each year. Problems with the heart, even heart attacks and strokes, can occur at any age. For college students adjusting to a new environment and routine, a lack of quality sleep, physical fitness, proper nutrition and heightened stress can all increase the risk for heart disease. So, what steps can college students take to keep their hearts healthy?
Know the Risk Factors and Warning Signs
Recent studies have found that college-age young adults are at a higher risk for heart disease than they may realize, especially as risk factors increase. Findings also indicate that college men are at greater risk than college women, due to lifestyle choices such as the use of tobacco and cannabis. Men are also more likely to overlook risk factors like high blood pressure.
At all ages, smoking, including secondhand smoke, is the most significant contributor to a type of heart disease known as coronary artery disease (CAD) — a buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in the artery wall. Even as smoking declines and overall heart attacks are decreasing, heart attacks are rising in young adults under the age of 40. The study by the American College of Cardiology found that the proportion of young adults having heart attacks has been rising by 2% each year for a decade. This silent killer has many risk factors with no signs and symptoms. The warning signs in adults include breathlessness, fatigue, chest pain and weakness or edema (i.e. swelling).
Take Preventative Steps
Though heart disease is difficult to detect, there are still preventative measures that can significantly lower risk factors for college students, including:
- Exercise and fitness: Be sure to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day. Scheduling time for fitness can help you stay consistently active.
- Proper nutrition: It’s easy to mindlessly eat or snack, especially while studying for a big exam. However, this can lead to unexpected weight gain and increase risk for heart disease. Use a journal or a nutrition app to keep accountability and appropriately watch your nutrition.
- Stress management: Trying to power through tasks while stressed is likely to make you less productive. Take frequent breaks and connect with friends and family to support your mental health.
- Sleep and rest: The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours a night. It can be hard with a demanding student schedule, but a good night’s rest can make a big difference in keeping you healthy.
Health Coaching to Prevent Heart Disease
Health Coaching can offer helpful guidance to implement healthy behaviors while on campus, or even if you’re learning remotely. Whether your goal is to lose weight, increase energy or develop better nutrition habits, a health coach takes the time to listen to your concerns and your struggles to make a strategy for moving forward.
TimelyCare’s Health Coaching is available in all 50 states, seven days a week, at no cost to most students enrolled at a TimelyCare campus. This type of support is designed to supplement what many campus wellness programs offer, and empower students to adopt new lifestyle behaviors and prevent chronic diseases — like heart disease.
TimelyCare is focused on improving the health of student populations via telehealth, and Health Coaching supports that goal. Our programs optimize clinic resources and support clinic staff in delivering quality care to the right student at the right time. Contact us to learn how your school can provide Health Coaching on your campus.