I am
Learning that heart disease can strike at any age
heartfoundation.org.au|Helpline 13 11 12

Learning that heart disease can strike at any age

Key takeaways

Anthony is a 30-year-old shift worker whose day took a dramatic turn after he started experiencing significant chest pains and an elevated heart rate. After undergoing surgery, he commonly heard people say “You’re too young…” and “Heart disease is an old person’s disease.”
3 min read

What a difference one year can make!

Suddenly at 30 years of age, with no build-up and no risk factors, my world slowly unravelled over the course of 24-30 hours. What happened during this time should have set off alarm bells.

As a shift worker, I had been in the gym seven nights in a row before the seventh night left me fatigued, with pain radiating down both arms and pins and needles in my little fingers.

‘You’re too young to be here’.

During work, I suffered two episodes of chest pain, each time my heart rate spiked. I had one more episode the next afternoon, however, I chose to go to bed instead of seeking medical treatment.

I not only ignored my colleagues’ advice, but I ignored my wife’s pleas to see a doctor. I eventually decided to get a ‘check-up’ from my local GP which soon turned into a trip to the hospital’s Emergency Department. After four days of testing, I was diagnosed with a 99% blockage of my left descending coronary artery. The position it was in meant a stent was not an option. Two weeks later I underwent double bypass surgery.

In hospital people constantly asked why I was there. The common phrases used were ‘You’re too young to be in here.’ and ‘Heart disease is an old person’s disease’.

I thought waiting for surgery was hard, but it was nothing in comparison to the following three-month recovery. On day five I was discharged from hospital. My wound felt fine. What I didn’t anticipate was the dramatic loss in my strength and fitness. I tried walking fifty metres down my street and then slept for three hours. My lungs were working at sixty per cent and that took weeks to improve.

I started rehab after two weeks. Here I was the youngest person by at least twenty to thirty years. I sat next to an older fella who couldn’t help but laugh at me; this young man struggling with the most basic movements.

In week six I experienced side effects of the painkillers, which in turn caused restless leg syndrome. I could sleep no more than two hours a night. Depression quickly set in and one morning I broke down in our local café. It was hard to accept that my life had changed so dramatically whilst everyone else’s continued as if nothing had happened.

‘Why me? I’m too young for this - after all ‘heart disease is for old people’.

Three months later my wife, Kate and I got the unexpected news that she was pregnant. Our boy was due around the anniversary of my surgery.

My biggest fear through Kate’s pregnancy was that I would be passing on a ‘dickey ticker’ to this little human. Thankfully, tests showed otherwise and, while the doctors still have no idea what caused my heart disease, they are confident it is not hereditary and nothing to do with lifestyle.

One year on, I am grateful that I have been one of the lucky ones who has been given a second chance. Since May last year, I have heard and read countless news stories of young people, from athletes to normal every day Australians, suffering fatal heart attacks while doing the things they love.

I’m so grateful that I still get to do the things I love; from playing sport to working for my community. I am forever thanking those amazing people who stood by my side and showed compassion and friendship when I needed it most. The most important thing is spending invaluable time with my amazing wife and three-month-old boy. Seeing him smile and grow makes the tough three months post-surgery worth it.

I could easily be a statistic and never experience the joys this little man brings.

‘Heart disease is an old person’s disease that kills young people’.

It does not discriminate, it does not care about age. You don’t die from embarrassment. If you are suffering from heart-related symptoms, please seek medical treatment. It just may save your life.  

Discover more heart stories

You might also be interested in

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril credits cardiac rehab for getting his life back

Cyril suffered a heart attack in 2015. Cardiac rehab helped get his life back on track. ...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Heart Health Projects

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Heart Health Projects

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Heart Health Projects

Projects aimed at improving the heart health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ...

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Are you at risk of heart disease? 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Are you at risk of heart disease? 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Are you at risk of heart disease? 

Preventing heart disease starts with knowing your risk factors and making changes to live a healthier life. ...

Heart stories

Heart stories

Heart stories

Stories of hope from Australian men and women fighting heart disease....

Exercising for heart and soul

Exercising for heart and soul

Exercising for heart and soul

Alicia Philipatos was three days old when her heart condition was diagnosed...

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease (CHD) or coronary artery disease occurs when a coronary artery clogs and narrows because of a buildup of plaque....

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Information on how air pollution, heatwaves and bushfires can impact heart health, and what you can do to look after yourself. ...

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Women and heart disease

Every day, 20 women lose their lives to this condition....

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

Gerry had heart attack warning signs on his dream holiday.

I’d always thought of myself as fairly fit; I swam a lot, and did ‘soft running’, a combination of running and walking. ...

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Heart Health Check Toolkit

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Environment, climate change and heart health

Information on how air pollution, heatwaves and bushfires can impact heart health, and what you can do to look after yourself. ...

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Heart Age Calculator

Could you be at risk of heart disease? Get your estimated heart age now....

24-hour Blood Pressure Monitoring

24-hour Blood Pressure Monitoring

24-hour Blood Pressure Monitoring

Blood pressure monitoring at home using a 24-hour blood pressure monitor test....

Absolute CVD risk assessment resources

Absolute CVD risk assessment resources

Resources and clinical information for health professionals...

What is atrial fibrillation?

What is atrial fibrillation?

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia where your heart beats irregularly and fast....

Research funding programs

Research funding programs

Research funding programs

Understand the application process and requirements of our various funding programs....

One pot green goodness pasta

One pot green goodness pasta

One pot green goodness pasta

15 minutes
Serves 4

What is plant-based eating

What is plant-based eating

What is plant-based eating

Learn about plant-based eating and its impact on heart health ...

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Supporting local Councils in South Australia

Resources to help support your council region to be healthy, connected and safe....

Cardiac Rehabilitation for Health Professionals - Patient Resources

Cardiac Rehabilitation for Health Professionals - Patient Resources

Staying active for better heart health

Staying active for better heart health

Staying active for better heart health

Moving more every day is one of the best habits you can have....

For professionals: Heart failure tools and resources

For professionals: Heart failure tools and resources

Resources for healthcare professionals on the management of patients with heart failure ...

Exercise boosts artery health in middle-aged and older men, not testosterone therapy

Exercise boosts artery health in middle-aged and older men, not testosterone therapy

Exercise boosts artery health in middle-aged and older men, not testosterone therapy

Media Release - 22 February 2021...

One pot green goodness pasta

One pot green goodness pasta

One pot green goodness pasta

15 minutes
Serves 2

Lamb souvlaki wraps

Lamb souvlaki wraps

Lamb souvlaki wraps

5 minutes
Serves 2

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Clinical Guidelines

Full list of clinical guidlines and references for CVD, heart failure, ACS, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, SCAD and RHD...

Action Plans

Action Plans

Action Plans

Recovery is a long journey, so having a plan makes a huge difference. Using an action plan gives you a step-by-step guide to improving your lifestyle....

Atrial fibrillation resources for patients

Atrial fibrillation resources for patients

For Professionals: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples information and resources

For Professionals: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples information and resources

For Professionals: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples information and resources

Resources for providing best practice cardiovascular care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples....

Q&A with Dr Dean Picone

Q&A with Dr Dean Picone

Q&A with Dr Dean Picone

Heart Foundation congratulates Imelda Lynch on appointment to Ministerial research advisory board

Heart Foundation congratulates Imelda Lynch on appointment to Ministerial research advisory board

Heart Foundation congratulates Imelda Lynch on appointment to Ministerial research advisory board

Media Release - 28 September 2021...

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Mental health and heart disease

Having a mental health condition can have a negative impact on your heart health and increase your risk of heart disease....

The Heart Failure Toolkit

The Heart Failure Toolkit

The Toolkit provides health services with a targeted approach to addressing readmission rates and decreasing variation in care....

Chicken fajitas

Chicken fajitas

Chicken fajitas

20 minutes
Serves 4

Heart stories

Heart stories

Heart stories

Stories of hope from Australian men and women fighting heart disease....

Diabetes and heart disease

Diabetes and heart disease

Diabetes and heart disease

Diabetes is an ongoing health condition where your body’s usual ways of controlling your blood sugar, or blood glucose levels, don’t work properly. ...

Chicken caprese pizza

Chicken caprese pizza

Chicken caprese pizza

20 minutes
Serves 4 (1 pizza per serve)

Roast vegetable pasta

Roast vegetable pasta

30 minutes
Serves 6 (as a side)

Blood cholesterol

Blood cholesterol

Blood cholesterol

Keeping your blood cholesterol at a healthy level can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and other serious conditions. ...