Heart attack rates in the United States are declining overall, but not among young people.
A new study showed that more adults in their 20s and 30s are suffering from heart attacks. In addition, these young adults have the same rate of bad outcomes after a heart attack, including death, as people 10 years older, according to the research.
Senior study author Dr. Ron Blankstein, a preventive cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, explained in a statement that heart attacks used to only be associated with people over 40 years old. He added that their findings seem to highlight that society is “moving in the wrong direction.”
For the research, Blankstein and his colleagues studied data from around 2,100 heart attack patients who were aged 50 and younger and were admitted to one of two large hospitals between 2000 and 2016. They found that 20 percent of the total number of patients, or about one in every five cases, were 40 or younger.
But the proportion of patients 40 and younger increased by about two percent each year for the last decade of the study.
The research also showed that having a younger age doesn’t necessarily mean one could survive after a heart attack. The authors found that patients who were 40 years old and younger were just as likely to die after suffering a heart attack as those between the ages of 41 and 50.
“Even if you’re in your 20s or 30s, once you’ve had a heart attack, you’re at risk for more cardiovascular events, and you have just as much risk as someone who may be older than you,” Blankstein said.
While the rate of traditional risk facts for heart disease like diabetes and high blood pressure are the same for both young and older age groups, the study found that patients aged 40 and younger were more likely to report substance abuse. This includes marijuana and cocaine use.
Specifically, 18 percent of the younger group said they resorted to substance abuse, while only nine percent reported the same among the older group. This may suggest a link between substance use and the increase of heart attacks among young adults, but more studies need to be conducted to prove this.
It has been found that younger people are also less likely to take aspirin and statins after a heart attack. This may suggest that doctors may be less likely to prescribe these medications to younger patients due to their age, according to the study’s authors.
Overall, Blackstein said that at the moment, the best way to protect yourself would be prevention. He explained that heart attacks are not inevitable and “earlier detection” and “aggressive lifestyle changes” could help most people avoid suffering from this.
The study will be presented March 17 at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific sessions meeting in New Orleans and has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Heart.org has recommended several lifestyle changes people could adopt in order to lessen their risk of suffering a heart attack. Among their suggestions are limiting alcohol, consuming less salt and exercising regularly.
Check out this link for more information on heart attack prevention.