Americans need to be more vigilant when it comes to heart health. Despite nationwide prevention initiatives like My Life Check® from the American Heart Association, a new study shows that while older adults have seen a more than 20 percent decline in heart attacks, rates are holding steady among young and middle-aged adults in the Unites States—and women especially are at risk.
Researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine recently reviewed more than 230,000 health records from 2001 to 2010 and found no change in heart attack hospitalization rates for adults between the ages of 30 to 45. What’s more, the risk of death from a heart attack was notably higher among women, who typically have more health problems that can lead to heart attacks, including diabetes and high blood pressure. Women also take longer to recover from a heart attack than their male counterparts.
So why this age group in particular? Researchers say that even as improvements in treatment and prevention have helped American seniors improve their overall heart health, a nationwide rise in obesity and diabetes among young adults has counteracted those positive strides. Without these “offsetting risks,” lead author Dr. Aakriti Gupta believes they may have seen a decrease in heart attacks across all age groups.
This study and others like it highlight the need for improvements in heart health education and awareness nationwide, beginning with addressing the risks of heart disease and heart attack with younger patients (many of whom still believe those risks are associated with old age). Prevention efforts—especially among women—should focus on detecting early warning signs such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol and addressing them immediately. Changes in diet and lifestyle also play a critical role in improving and maintaining heart health.