Young people who survive a heart attack have the same chance of dying as survivors 10 years older than them.
New research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 68th Annual Scientific Session reveals more heart attacks are occurring amongst those under the age of 40. The report says that even though the number of heart attacks occurring in the U.S. have declined, mostly because of consistent use of medication and a decrease in smoking, the occurrence is steadily rising among young adults.
The study was conducted during the 16-year study period from 2000 to 2016. The research was based on observing more than 2,000 young patients less than 50 years of age, 20 percent of which were 40 or younger, who were admitted in two hospitals for a heart attack.
The proportion of very young people suffering from a heart attack have been rising by 2% each year for the last 10 years.
Ron Blankstein is a preventive cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston and the study’s senior author. He points out that it was extremely rare to see anyone under the age of 40 suffering a heart attack. But today, this is becoming increasingly common, and now patients in the 20s and 30s can and do suffer a heart attack.
The study finds that among patients who endure a heart attack at a young age overall, 1 in 5 is 40 or younger. Hence, it is evident that being young does not protect you from a heart attack. In fact, study researchers believe that young people who suffer a heart attack in their 20s or 30s are at a much higher risk of cardiovascular events later on in life and are also just as much at risk as someone how may be older than them. As per the findings of this study, both patient groups were at an equal risk of dying post-heart attack.
The researchers have tried to identify the risk factors behind the increase in heart attacks among young adults. They said the long-established factors such as heart attack, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and family history of premature heart attack and high cholesterol, were similar between the two groups. On the other hand, young adults who suffer a heart attack were more likely to report substance abuse, including marijuana and cocaine.
It was also found that young adults were more likely to have the disease in only one vessel, suggesting that this disease was still early and confined, yet they had the same rate of bad outcomes such as death. Young heart attack sufferers who also have diabetes find it harder to cope and recover.
Blankstein said, “Diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for having a heart attack; it also determines the future well-being of young people who have previously had a heart attack.” On a positive note, Blankstein said that there are now diabetes medications that have been shown in clinical trials to considerably reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular occurrences, including heart attack or death.