LA MESA, Calif. - A local cardiologist says he is seeing more young patients who have suffered a heart attack.
Take Michael Salazar, for example. Salazar appears to be the picture of good health. The La Mesa father of two works out at least four days a week, two hours each session.
That is why it was so surprising to him last December when he had a feeling come over him that he had never felt before.
"All of a sudden, I was like, 'Whoa, what's going on here?'" he said. "I thought I was going to pass out. It was a really bad pain."
Salazar was having a heart attack. He found out days later from his cardiologist that his diet was a major factor.
"They seem to be very healthy, however, they always tend to not eat healthy," said Hassan Kafri, a cardiologist from Sharp Grossmont Hospital.
Kafri says all too often, the importance of diet is underestimated.
"Those in their 20s, 30s and 40s believe if they work out, like Michael did, they can eat what they want," he said.
It is a common misconception -- just ask Michael.
"I have two kids so ... you know, you go out for pizza and you eat hamburgers and stuff like that," he said. "I didn't think much about really eating that well."
Kafri said, "Actually, little tweaks in your diet such as consuming more fresh food, less processed food can actually have dramatic impact on your future risk of heart attacks."
When Salazar thinks back on the day he had a heart attack, he gets choked up.
"I never thought I was going to die … not once, and I knew it wasn't my time," Salazar said. "I have an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old, and there was no way. All the doctors say I basically dodged a bullet because I guess it just wasn't my time."
Salazar says his diet now consists of brown rice, fresh fish and lots of vegetables, which are healthy eating habits that his two sons are now sharing when they can.