BUFFALO, N.Y. — If you spend time on social media, you may have seen the hashtag #DiedSuddenly. It’s often tied to the idea that people are dying off in large numbers because they received the COVID-19 vaccine. Various experts say this is not true.
However, they are on to something that is true. There has been an increase in younger people having heart attacks, a trend that started before 2020 and then sped up during the pandemic.
A study last year by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles shows heart attack deaths were up for all age groups in 2020 and 2021. But the largest increase was in the 25-44 age group, a 29% jump during those years. It’s something doctors are now starting to better understand.
It’s been more than eight years since Laurie Buckley’s heart attack.
“Don’t think about it as much as I used to,” she said. “But there will be times where it does creep into my head.”
At the time she was 36 years old. In shape. Eating healthy.
“I immediately felt intense pain in my jaw unlike anything I had ever felt before,” said Buckley.
Her kids essentially watched it happen.
“I had my six-year-old son at the time and my nine-year-old daughter at the time standing around kind of just looking down at me thinking what the heck is going on,” said Buckley.
She eventually had surgery to have a stent put in. Buckley’s heart attack was caused by a condition known as SCAD, spontaneous coronary artery dissection.
For many of the other cases:
“In the First World it’s probably because of an increase in diabetes and increased coronary atherosclerosis,” said Dr. Vijay Iyer, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine.
Atherosclerosis is a plaque buildup along the walls of the arteries.
Dr. Iyer says they believe the increase in heart attacks during COVID-19 was because of increased clotting caused by the virus.
As for the vaccine:
“I think this myth that the COVID vaccine is somehow related to increased heart attacks certainly is not borne out by the data,” said Iyer. “What we have seen with the COVID vaccine is a slight increase in myocarditis, or an increase in inflammation of the heart. Whether that has any substantive impact on sudden cardiac death has yet to be proven, but there is certainly no evidence at this point that the COVID vaccine has led to increased heart attacks per say.”
Dr. Iyer says it’s important to understand your risk factors and try to modify anything you can, things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and smoking.
Buckley didn’t have any of those risk factors. She’s the area director of sales and marketing for the Richardson Hotel. Her daughter Charlotte is a junior in high school and her son Leo will be a freshman in the fall.
“You just need to take that extra step to continue to take care of yourself,” said Buckley. “Especially myself I’m a mother so I have a responsibility in addition to myself, so I need to be around to take care of my children.”
When Buckley’s jaw pain started to spread, she looked up the warning signs of a heart attack and came across information from the American Heart Association.
This is the heart association’s list of common warning signs:
- Pain or discomfort in the chest
- Lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting
- Jaw, neck or back pain
- Discomfort or pain in arm or shoulder
- Shortness of breath
You can learn much more about the warning signs and ways to try to prevent a heart attack at the American Heart Association’s website: www.heart.org.