Top cardiologist Dr. Kapadia, of the Cleveland Clinic, is recommending that people take stronger preventative measures to avoid heart attacks. “Don’t wait until you have a diagnosed heart problem to start taking care of yourself and paying attention to your lifestyle and dietary choices. You should be working hard to avoid developing heart disease in the first place,” he says.
This caution arrives in the wake of new findings from a study led by Kapadia, revealing that serious heart events are now affecting younger and more obese people. Researchers set out to examine risk factors for heart disease in patients treated for STEMI – ST-elevation myocardial infarction – the most deadly form of heart attack.
Among the 3,900 STEMI patients selected for the study, which took place between 1995 and 2014, the average age fell from 64 to 60. Many suffered other heart-related ailments. In that same period, obesity in those patients rose from 31% to 40%, high blood pressure from 55% to 77%, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from 5% to 12% and diabetes from 24% to 31%.
Moreover, patients who suffered from three or more of these additional major risk factors increased from 65% to 85%.
While there are certain health factors that a person cannot change – age, family history – there are still plenty of ways that these major risks can be reduced. Patients need to take a more proactive role in their heart health earlier on in life; it’s a good idea to make yourself aware of the difference between heart attacks and cardiac arrests, for instance.
“On the whole, the medical community has done an outstanding job of improving treatments for heart disease,” says Kapadia, “but this study shows that we have to do better on the prevention side. 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.”
Heart attacks kill around 735,000 Americans every year. According to the CDC, that’s one person every 43 seconds.
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