Heart Attacks Are Affecting Younger People
You probably have an image in your mind of who is most likely to be at risk of a heart attack. Odds are that image is male, middle-aged and overweight.
That’s not totally wrong, but a new study suggests that you may have to expand that risk group.
Life-threatening heart attacks are affecting younger (and yes, more obese) individuals today than ever before. In addition, rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for this group and others remain elevated, according to findings to be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 65th Annual Scientific Session in Chicago.
Some risk factors are genetic – the luck of the draw. But heart health can also depend on dietary habits, exercise and smoking, lifestyle choices that are within the individual's control.
ST-elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI, is the most severe and deadly type of heart attack, which occurs when one of the heart's main arteries. Scientists studied over 3,900 STEMI patients from 1995-2014, and the trends were not good.
The average age of STEMI patients fell from 64 to 60 years. Rates of obesity among these patients rose from 31% to 40%, of diabetes from 24% to 31%, of high blood pressure from 55% to 77%, and the percentage of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) went up from 5% to 12%. The proportion of smokers in this population rose from 28% to 46%, despite an overall decline nationwide over the last 2 decades.
The study authors urge patients to start early on a heart-healthy lifestyle, with appropriate levels of exercise and healthy dietary choices, rather than waiting until a heart problem is diagnosed.