A recent study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes has found the death of premature death has decreased significantly in heart attack survivors under the age of 50. However, the chances of survivors dying at an early age due to heart disease related factors, is still twice as likely when compared with the generation population.
Coronary heart disease, a disease in which the coronary arteries become obstructed with cholesterol, is the leading cause of heart attacks. About 735 000 people of the United States’ population suffer from a heart attack every year and 610 000 of the country’s population die of heart disease – coronary artery disease account for 370 000 of these cases.
Nearly 50 percent of Americans have at least one key risk factors of heart disease, which includes:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- type 2 diabetes
- physical inactivity and obesity
- poor diet
During their study, the team of researchers analyzed data from 21 693 people. The study subjects were aged 50 or younger whom had all suffered a heart attack and compared them to 216 930 of the general population, with follow-up over an average of 11 years.
Heart attack survivors under age of 50 almost twice as likely to die
4 in 5 of the heart attack survivors were men with an average age of 45 years. Most of the survivors (83.6 percent) were aged between 40-49 years and only 1.8 percent were younger than 30.
The findings concluded a decline in heart attack deaths between 1980 to 1989 and 2000 to 2009. A notable decline from 12.5 percent to 3.2 percent within 30 days post-heart attack, 5.1 percent to 1.6 percent within 31-365 days, and 24.2 percent to 8.9 percent within 1-10 years, was discovered.
When compared with the general population, heart attack survivors aged 50 years and younger who had survived for 1 year were 1.89 times more like to die, with heart disease and other smoking-related diseased being the main cause of death.
Women were 3 times more likely to die and men had a 1.7 times increased risk of death after suffering from a heart attack. The research team noted that the reason for the difference between male and female results is still unclear.
Dr. Morten Schmidt, Ph.D., lead study author and researcher at the Aarhus University in Denmark, says that says that while the 30-day risk of death following a heart attack has significantly declined in the last 30 years, younger patients should still be concerned about their long-term health.
Long-term risks reduced by quitting smoking, exercising and healthy eating.
“It is estimated that half of the decline in deaths from heart attacks since 1980 is attributable to primary prevention and, in particular, the reduction in the number of patients who smoke,” says Dr. Schmidt.
“The other half is likely attributable to a combination of things such as the introduction of early treatments that restore blood flow to the part of the heart muscle damaged during a heart attack, improvement in hospital organization, and better management of high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” he adds.
Quitting smoking, regular exercise and a healthy diet may reduce the risk of a heart attack, adds Dr. Schmidt. Changing these behaviors can also help prevent a second heart attack.
“Even though you survive a heart attack at an early age, you remain at an increased risk of another attack later in life. For the same reason, it is important that patients make efforts to reduce this long-term risk by adhering to the prescribed medical therapy and by improving their lifestyle, especially by stopping smoking,” adds Dr. Morten Schmidt.
Along with his colleagues, Dr Schmidt found that cardiovascular disease risk factors were highest among the group that had survived a heart attack when compared with the general population.
Risk factors included angina (11.7 percent versus 0.4 percent); high blood pressure (10.6 percent versus 1.2 percent); diabetes (7.4 percent versus 1.1 percent); and obesity (4.6 percent versus 0.8 percent).