APR 21, 2020 3:46 PM PDT

Why are More Young People Having Heart Attacks?

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Fewer and fewer people have heart attacks in the US thanks to improved lifestyle factors, such as a general reduction in smoking, and the usage of medicines like statins. But in one group, it’s increasing- and not where you might expect. Heart attacks among those under 40 are becoming more and more common. 

For the study, researchers from the American College of Cardiology examined data from 2,097 people under 50 who were admitted for a heart attack in two large hospitals. Those aged between 41 and 50 were classified as ‘young’ patients while those under 40, 20% of the patients, were ‘very young’. The researchers then compared angiograms between the patients, a procedure that uses X-rays to see the blood vessels and arteries in the heart. 

Collecting data over a 16-year period between 2000 and 2016, they found that the proportion of ‘very young’ people having a heart attack increased by 2% each year between 2006 and 2016. They also found that those under 40 who had heart attacks were more likely to have the disease in one vessel than those in the older group, meaning that their condition was still at an early stage. They nevertheless had the same rate of negative outcomes such as dying from another heart attack or stroke. People in this demographic also had higher rates of spontaneous coronary artery dissection, a rare condition characterized by a tear in the vessel wall that is more common in pregnant women.

"It used to be incredibly rare to see anyone under age 40 come in with a heart attack - and some of these people are now in their 20s and early 30s," says Ron Blankstein, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and the study's senior author. "Based on what we are seeing, it seems that we are moving in the wrong direction."

The researchers sought to understand why this is the case. Lifestyle factors such smoking are known to hasten the onset of cardiovascular disease and events, alongside other conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and a family history of early heart attacks and high cholesterol. Seen in both the ‘young’ and ‘very young’ groups, the researchers also noted that the youngest patients tended to report more substance abuse. While 17.9% used marijuana, 9.3% reported using cocaine.

"It all comes back to prevention," says Blankstein. "Many people think that a heart attack is destined to happen, but the vast majority could be prevented with earlier detection of the disease and aggressive lifestyle changes and management of other risk factors. My best advice is to avoid tobacco, get regular exercise, eat a heart healthy diet, lose weight if you need to, manage your blood pressure and cholesterol, avoid diabetes if you can, and stay away from cocaine and marijuana because they're not necessarily good for your heart."


Sources: Science Daily, Live Science

About the Author
University College London
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
APR 24, 2022
Technology
Portable MRIs for Detecting Stroke
APR 24, 2022
Portable MRIs for Detecting Stroke
Strokes are considered medical emergencies. They happen quickly and with devastating results. During a stroke, blood flo ...
MAY 19, 2022
Cardiology
Death from Heart Attacks More Common in US than Other High-Income Countries
MAY 19, 2022
Death from Heart Attacks More Common in US than Other High-Income Countries
The US has a high rate of heart attack mortality compared to other high-income countries.
JUL 20, 2022
Cardiology
Light Exposure During Sleep Linked to Obesity, Hypertension in Older Adults
JUL 20, 2022
Light Exposure During Sleep Linked to Obesity, Hypertension in Older Adults
Keeping your bedroom dark at night could have a major impact on your health.
AUG 02, 2022
Technology
Coolants in Disposable e-Cigarettes Pose Significant Health Risks
AUG 02, 2022
Coolants in Disposable e-Cigarettes Pose Significant Health Risks
e-Cigarettes skyrocketed in popularity when they were first introduced, especially when flavored cartridge e-cigarettes ...
SEP 15, 2022
Cardiology
Lack of Sleep Increases Our Health Risks and Lowers Our Empathy
SEP 15, 2022
Lack of Sleep Increases Our Health Risks and Lowers Our Empathy
Lack of sleep is correlated with cardiovascular disease, depression, and more: it also makes us more selfish.
SEP 17, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Dental Care Linked to Better Heart Attack Outcomes
SEP 17, 2022
Dental Care Linked to Better Heart Attack Outcomes
People who receive periodontal care have shorter hospital stays following a heart attack. The corresponding study was pu ...
Loading Comments...