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TODAY: Young People Are More Likely to Die of Heart Attacks Post-COVID, Study Finds. But Why?

TODAY recently interviewed Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute, about recent study findings showing that heart attack deaths among young people have spiked in the U.S. since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cheng, senior and co-corresponding author of the study, told TODAY correspondent Erin McLaughlin that people ages 25 to 44 saw a nearly 30% increase in heart attack deaths over the first two years of the pandemic—a surprising finding without a clear explanation.

“Young people are obviously not really supposed to die of heart attack,” Cheng told McLaughlin. “They’re not really supposed to have heart attacks at all.”

Cheng said that the connection between COVID-19 and heart attack deaths was “more than coincidental.”

She added, “There are a lot of things that COVID can do to the cardiovascular system. It appears to be able to increase the stickiness of the blood and increase ... the likelihood of blood clot formation. It seems to stir up inflammation in the blood vessels. It seems to also cause in some people an overwhelming stress—whether it’s related directly to the infection or situations around the infection—that can also cause a spike in blood pressure.”

Cheng told McLaughlin that people who have COVID-19 multiple times also are at higher risk of heart problems. She emphasized keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar under control.

“I'd love to say we're ... coming out on the other side and we can think of COVID more so like the common cold. Unfortunately, that is not the case," Cheng said.

Click here to read the article and view the segment on TODAY.