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Jul 21, 2014

Heart Attack Trends Among Young Adults

We’ve made little progress over the last decade in reducing heart attacks among young adults, according to a recent study.

We’ve made little progress over the last decade in reducing heart attacks among young adults, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

This study analyzed national trends to see what progress we’ve made, if any, in the last decade in both heart attack prevention and treatment. Using hospital data from the National Inpatient Sample, researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine identified more than 230,600 heart attack hospitalizations between 2001 and 2010 in patients between 30 and 54 years old. After comparing differences in sex and race, researchers identified a few key trends.

Most notably, there were no significant declines in heart attack hospitalizations among young men or women during this time period. Despite national campaigns designed to increase heart disease awareness and prevention—among young women especially—it appears that we’ve made little progress in reducing heart attacks in this population.

Additionally, compared to men, women had longer hospital stays, higher risk of death during hospital stays and were more likely to have other health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Researchers also found that black women had much higher heart attack rates and were more likely to have other health conditions than white women. The good news, however, is that we’ve made significant improvements in survival rates among young women hospitalized for heart attacks since 2001. Between 2001 and 2010, the proportion of women dying in-hospital after a heart attack declined by 30%.

Based on their findings, authors stress the importance of more aggressive prevention strategies in young adults at high risk for heart disease. Most adults have at least one risk factor for heart disease and addressing risk factors early in life is key to preventing life-threatening cardiac events. Future research is also needed to help explain and address racial differences in heart attacks among young adults. The more we understand about individuals at high risk for heart disease, the more progress we can make in eliminating health disparities in the United States.
Read the full study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What causes heart disease in young adults?
  • Throughout adulthood, the same factors increase risk for heart disease, including age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, tobacco use, lack of physical activity and family medical history. However, it is likely that heart disease in young adults is strongly related to genetic factors that are harder to modify. That’s why it’s important to identify cardiovascular risk factors early in life to help address risk factors and reduce risk of developing heart disease.
  • At what age are adults considered at highest risk for a heart attack?

  • Risk of heart disease and heart attack increase after age 45 for men and after age 55 (or after menopause) for women. However, other risk factors can increase cardiovascular risk despite younger age, such as family history, obesity and diabetes.

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