Heart Attacks Affect More Than Just “Old Men”
Published March 21, 2019
The results from a review of heart attack hospitalizations of over 28,000 people between 1995 and 2014 showed a disturbing age-related trend. In past, conventional wisdom held that heart attacks are associated primarily with males over the age of 55. However, the study showed that even younger adults and especially younger women are making up an ever-greater portion of these patients. The key findings of the study included:
- The percentage of young people having a heart attack increased from 27% of all cases to 32% by the end of the study
- The percentage of young women experiencing a heart attack increased from 21 to 31% over the course of the study
For the purposes of this study a young patient was considered between the ages of 35 and 54 – typically considered a lower-risk age group for heart attacks
The study also delves into the possible causes of young women becoming an ever-greater percentage of heart attack patients versus young men. Some of the conclusions include:
- The misperception of heart disease and particularly heart attack being a man’s disease. In actual fact, it is the leading killer of both men and women in the United States. Some women who experience a heart attack do not believe that they are at risk and may dismiss or delay care. Further, some medical professionals may even downplay the risk when females come to the OR complaining of chest pain. Females are more likely to have atypical heart attack symptoms, which can lead to an incorrect diagnosis. The results can be significant and even deadly.
- The study also noted that societally, high blood pressure and type II diabetes are increasing. This is particularly true for younger female patients versus their male counterparts. We know that the epidemic-level rise in obesity has contributed to this issue.
The Heart House’s Take
This study sheds light on the growing problem of heart disease across all ages, but particularly amongst the younger population that was never considered high risk. While the causes posited by the study are certainly valid, we have also seen a significant increase in heart related disorders due to the drug epidemic affecting today’s youth. With the significant rise in drug use, abuse and overdose, we are seeing an increase in heart disease – especially significant heart events like heart attack and stroke.
The bottom line: What we think of as high-risk individuals – older males – is a stereotype that needs to be removed from the public consciousness. Considering that over 30% of all heart attack related hospitalization can now be attributed to younger patients, it is imperative that we do a better job of controlling the many modifiable risk factors of heart disease not least of which are diet, exercise habits, smoking, excess weight and drug use.
1American Heart Association. (2018, November 12).Heart attacks are becoming more common in younger people, especially women. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/11/12/heart-attacks-are-becoming-more-common-in-younger-people-especially-women