In spite of the fact that we’ve never been more aware of the risk factors for heart disease, a new study shows that patients with the most severe type of heart attack have become younger.
We know that preventive lifestyle changes will keep this condition at bay, and yet we ignore the information and still have preventable risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
At least, this is the conclusion of a study that will soon be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 65th Annual Scientific Session.
Researchers have analyzed heart disease risk factors among over 3,900 patients who were treated for the most severe and deadly type of heart attack at Cleveland Clinic from 1995 to 2014.
The study’s leading investigator, Samir Kapadia, M.D., professor of medicine and director of interventional cardiology at Cleveland Clinic, explained that the medical community “has done an outstanding job of improving treatments for heart disease.”
However, the problem lies on the prevention side, where there’s room for improvement. When people come in for routine checkups, doctors should make it their priority to encourage the reducing of heart disease risk factors, such as losing weight, following a balanced diet and being physically fit.
A STEMI heart attack – also known as ST-elevation myocardial infarction – occurs when one of the heart’s main arteries is blocked by plaque. This stops the blood flow, which causes the risk of death or disability to be elevated; survival chances can be increased with immediate medical attention.
Some of the risk factors for heart attacks are beyond our control, such as age and family history. However, others can be reduced through lifestyle choices, like choosing to exercise more, quit smoking and following a heart-healthy diet.
The study’s results found that the average age of STEMI patients decreased from 64 to 60 while the prevalence of obesity increased from 31 to 40 percent.
Smoking rates statistics were rather striking, showing an increase from 28 to 46 percent – as opposed to national trends, which say that smoking rates have declined over the past 20 years.
Dr. Kapadia emphasized that prevention is key; it’s better to pay attention to your dietary and lifestyle choices before it’s too late. At the same time, it’s not just the cardiologist who’s responsible for the patient’s cardiac health.
The patient “needs to take ownership of this problem,” he explained, which means they need to start taking care of themselves before they have a diagnosed heart problem.
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