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Former student’s death of heart disease serves as a reminder to watch for early signs of danger


By Clare Kolenda

A former Grand Rapids Community College student passed away from arteriosclerosis, a heart condition that causes the arteries to harden and restrict blood from getting through. Phu Quoc Thieu Tran, 38, was found in his car covered by a blanket by police officers the morning of September 23. After further investigation, they discovered Tran had Googled the symptoms of heart attacks just prior to his death.

Though heart attacks in college students are highly unlikely, the chances increase as we grow older. The symptoms of heart attack are often chest pain, as well as shooting pains in arms and neck that give way to a deep ache afterwards.  Fortunately, there are ways to prevent heart attacks that take lives and change the lives of family and friends.

Dr. Ryan Madder, a cardiologist at Spectrum Health for the past 2 years, spoke on the issue further. It’s not normal for college students to experience heart attack. It’s more common in individuals in their 50s and 60s.

Yet even with a low risk, there are several things that college students can do to prevent experiencing them in the future. Madder suggested monitoring a few of the major sources of heart attack. High cholesterol is a big factor to cause heart problems and while it can be genetic and common in your family’s health history, all too often it is brought on upon by an unhealthy lifestyle. High blood pressure is another risk factor for heart problems.

The worst part about these two causes, Madder continued, is that their symptoms are often undetectable and can go unnoticed for years. The only way to truly know if you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure is to go to the doctor for testing.

Even with the risk of high cholesterol or blood pressure, the biggest step in prevention is to stop smoking. “Smoking can cause a whole slew of problems,” Madder said. Smoking is known to cause several types of cancers and wreak havoc on your health.

If you feel symptoms of a heart attack the best course of action is to notify someone of your symptoms, Madder said and, “seek emergency assistance.” The tragedy occurs when we ignore the symptoms. Instead of seeking medical attention immediately the trend in today’s world is to Google our symptoms and self-diagnose.

“Yeah, don’t do that,” Madder said. Better to be safe than sorry, he assured.  If caught in time, many cases of heart attack can be treated quickly. The quick thinking of a doctor will never be able to replace even the fastest search engine there is.

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