While heart attacks may be traditionally associated with seniors and individuals with severe health problems, a new report from the Cleveland Clinic suggests the trend is changing. For the first time in generations, the average age of victims suffering severe heart attacks has actually fallen. And in more instances than every before, obesity is cited as a direct cause of the attacks.
In short, younger and fatter Americans are falling victim to life-threatening heart attacks at a much higher rate.
The results of a new study show that the average age of heart attack victims has now fallen to 60-years-old from the prior 64-years-old, so reports the Cleveland Clinic.
In addition, the same report noted that obesity is now a factor in no less than 40% of all severe heart attacks in the US. It was also found that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, high blood pressure and tobacco use are causing considerably more heart attack than they were two decades ago.
Along with facing a dangerously elevated heart attack risk, obesity is known it increase a person’s likelihood of developing a variety of other serious illnesses, including diabetes and several types of cancer.
“Lifestyle changes to reduce weight, eat right, exercise and quit smoking are critical for prevention of heart attack,” wrote Dr. Samir Kapadia, the study’s lead and professor of medicine and section head of interventional cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic.
He suggested that patients and doctors must both invest additional efforts in working toward a better standard of public heart health, in order to prevent the crisis becoming even worse.
Investigating heart attack triggers, the team focused on the type of attack caused by an excessive buildup of plaque which fully blocks the main heart artery – known as ST-elevation heart attacks (STEMI). The records of 3,900 patients treated for STEMI heart attacks were analyzed and the patients’ lifestyle factors taken into consideration.
The research team found that between 1995 and 2014, the average age of patients being treated for STEMI heart attacks fell to a new low of 60-years-old. During the same period, obesity among those treated for heart attacks climbed a full 9% to a new high of 40%.
Diabetes was a factor in 31% cases, representing a 7% climb from the previous 24%. The presence of COPD – usually attributed to tobacco use – hit 12% from the previous 5%, while the prior 55% of STEMI patients with high blood pressure rocketed to shocking 80% during the study period.
“Primary care physicians and cardiologists have to work harder to provide education and specific programs to help reduce risk factors in the community to reduce the burden of heart attack,” Kapadia added.
“Patients should take responsibility and place health as the highest priority to change their lifestyle in order to prevent heart attacks.”
Despite the fact that smoking rates in the US as a whole have declined sharply over recent decades, the research team was shocked to discover that the smoking rate among heart attack patients had climbed from 28% to 46%.
“On the whole, the medical community has done an outstanding job of improving treatments for heart disease, but this study shows that we have to do better on the prevention side,” commented Kapadia.
“When people come for routine checkups, it is critical to stress the importance of reducing risk factors through weight reduction, eating a healthy diet and being physically active,”
“Prevention must be kept in the forefront of primary care. Cardiac health is not just dependent on the cardiologist. The primary care physicians and the patient need to take ownership of this problem.”