'American Idol' alum C.J. Harris, 31, dies of heart attack — signs, risks for young people

In 2014, C.J. Harris finished sixth place on season 13 of American Idol, and died at age 31 in Alabama.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 9: Contestant C.J. Harris performs onstage at FOX's
C.J. Harris died of a heart attack on Sunday. (Photo by FOX Image Collection via Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

"American Idol" star C.J. Harris's cause of death has been revealed.

On Sunday, the singer — who finished sixth on the show's 13th season — died in his hometown of Jasper, Ala. after suffering a fatal heart attack.

The Walker County Coroner’s Office confirmed the news after the musician was rushed to the hospital, where CPR efforts were unsuccessful.

After his death, "American Idol" released a statement reading: "C.J. Harris was an incredible talent, and the news of his passing deeply saddens us. He will be truly missed."

Harris won over both the audience and the judges with heartfelt interpretations of "Soulshine" by the Allman Brothers Band and "Can’t You See" by The Marshall Tucker Band.

Although he got all the way to the semi-finals, Harris was eliminated on Apr. 24, 2014, in the sixth round. Caleb Johnson went on to win the season.

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Jessica Meuse, one of Harris's competitors on the show, took to Instagram with a touching tribute.

"Your talent and smile will be missed, and the world is definitely a darker and eerily quieter place without you in it. I’ll miss your random phone calls asking for life advice and talking about the music world ... I’m grateful that our paths crossed," she penned.

The news is particularly shocking considering his age — Harris was only 31, which is very young to have suffered a life-ending heart attack.

So, what are the warning signs and risks of heart attack for younger people? Read on for everything you need to know.

What is a heart attack?

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, "a heart attack occurs when blood flow to a section of the heart becomes blocked and the heart muscle can’t get oxygen. If the blood flow isn’t restored quickly, that section of the heart begins to die."

This occurs when coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood become narrowed. A buildup of fat and cholesterol contribute to this narrowing.

The damage can be mild, severe or life-long, depending on how long the blood supply is cut off. In some cases, heart attacks can be fatal.

Conceptual of heart disease/ chest pain can indicate a serious problem, it's important to seek immediate medical help.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, "a heart attack occurs when blood flow to a section of the heart becomes blocked and the heart muscle can’t get oxygen." (Photo via Getty Images)

How common is heart attack in young people?

Not long ago, heart attacks were only something older adults faced — it was rare for a patient under the age of 40 to have a heart attack.

Now, the Cardio Metabolic Institute reported that one in five people who suffer a heart attack are younger than 40. Patients as young as 20 have even been experiencing the condition.

Moreover, between 2000-2016, the Institute noted that the heart attack rate has increased by two per cent every year between the ages of 20-30.

What are the signs and symptoms of heart attack in younger people?

There aren't necessarily any different warning signs of heart attack in younger people than middle-aged or elderly individuals. The key warning signs are as follows:

  • Chest discomfort (pressure, squeezing, pain, heaviness, burning sensation)

  • Sweating

  • Upper body discomfort (jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, back)

  • Nausea

  • Shortness of breath

  • Lightheadedness

However, some health professionals have noted younger people are more stressed, are working harder and longer hours than ever before, aren't getting enough exercise, are drinking more alcohol and aren't following a heart-healthy diet, which are all contributors to heart attack.

If you or someone you know are experiencing any of the above signs and symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Woman suffering from chest pain heart attack. Healthcare and medical concept.
Chest discomfort is a key warning sign of a heart attack. (Photo via Getty Images)

Who's at risk of a heart attack?

Heart attack risk factors are health conditions or lifestyle habits that increase your chances of having a heart attack.

For example, people with coronary artery disease, who have high cholesterol or are diabetic are more likely to experience a heart attack.

Lifestyle factors include smoking, not getting enough exercise, being an unhealthy weight, being stressed, using recreational drugs, or following an unhealthy diet also increases your odds.

Moreover, if you have a close relative who has a heart disease, or if you have an autoimmune condition, you are at an increased risk.

The above risks are the same for both young people and older individuals.

Young people can help prevent a heart attack by exercising and eating well. (Photo via Getty Images)
Young people can help prevent a heart attack by exercising and eating well. (Photo via Getty Images)

How can young people help prevent a heart attack?

There are several ways young people can help prevent a heart attack, which mostly involve lifestyle changes.

Eating a heart-healthy diet low in salt and saturated fat and high in fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains is recommended.

Additionally, experts suggest individuals complete 150 minutes of moderate-intense physical activity per week. Specifically, aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming and dancing, makes your heart work harder and thus keeps it healthy.

Additionally, young people should stop smoking, consume less alcohol, and focus on stress reduction.

If you have a family history of heart attack or heart disease, or suffer from an autoimmune condition, speak with your family doctor about how you can help prevent a heart attack.

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