SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- February is American Heart Month. Doctors said that now more than ever, it's the 90 million millennials who should be paying close attention.

Doctors said that lifestyle and bad habits are contributing factors to the growing number of people in their 20's and 30's with heart disease.

Leigh Lavallee of Springfield just picked up lunch.

"Steak and gourmet fries," Lavallee said.

Lavallee added that he splurges every once in a while, even though he has a heart condition.

"It runs in my family. It was when I was 21 [that] I had my first heart attack," Lavallee said.

Doctors said Lavallee is one of a growing number of young people nationwide, diagnosed with heart disease in their 20's and 30's.

Cardiologist Dr. Amir Lotfi at Baystate Medical Center told Western Mass News that the seeds of heart issues are usually planted even earlier.

"Coronary disease, itself, it takes time to develop so when you start having these problems at a younger age, it starts developing faster," Lotfi noted.

In other words, the habits you create in your teens, 20's, and 30's will determine whether your arteries are clean or clogged later in life.

"The kids now who are doing less activity, sitting in front of computers, not maybe nutritionally sound," Lotfi said.

However, change, Lotfi said, can happen now. Start by getting off the couch.

"Exercise, do I exercise. Most people say you know what, I walk at work. That's not exercise," Lotfi added.

Lotfi noted that six days a week for at least 30 minutes of sustained exercise.

Next up, Lotfi said ditch the fast food.

"Eating well, you know fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, fish in your diet is key, staying away from processed food," Lotfi explained.

Also, get a good night's sleep, try and reduce stress, and quit smoking. Lotfi said that includes vaping. For goodness sake, he said, ask your doctor:

"What is my blood pressure, what is my cholesterol, what is my family history?" Lotfi said.

Lavallee added, "If the food don't kill me, hopefully old age does."

Doctors said that while heart disease has decreased over the last decade, it is still the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.

Copyright 2019 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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