Many heart disease risk factors are the same for everyone. Lifestyle choices such as insufficient exercise, obesity, nicotine addiction and excessive alcohol consumption are factors that put many adults at risk.

But Dr Regis Fernandes, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic (a nonprofit medical practice and research group in Rochester, Minnesota), says such behaviours seem more prevalent in younger people now than before.

What are the factors that millennials – anyone born between 1982 and 1994 – may be at higher risk of developing heart disease at a younger age than previous generations?

“Lack of exercise, drinking too much alcohol, smoking and things like that (are risk factors),” says Dr Fernandes, adding that these habits seem more prevalent now in those aged 24 to 36 than those in the older bracket.

And while millennials are the most closely associated with the computer generation, Dr Fernandes says, “They’re very savvy with computers, but they’re lacking exercise. Obesity is increasing.”

He says another big reason is stress. “That’s a problem that they’re going to carry through their lifetime. We’re seeing this nowadays. This will eventually translate into heart disease at a younger age. We see that in our emergency rooms now every day.”

He says millennials have to stop thinking about heart disease as something older people like their parents suffer from and start addressing their own risks.

“Eating more fruits and vegetables, avoiding high-calorie foods that are high in sugar and flour, etc. Those behaviours actually help to reduce your blood pressure, reduce your sodium intake and your sugar intake,” he says. “And they actually help to reduce your stress level.” – Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service