For the first time in history, a growing number of heart attacks patients are younger women, a scary statistic that might just come down to overall poorer health. According to the study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, hospital admissions data records show that the number of heart attack patients between ages 35 and 54 now makes up nearly 32 per cent of the total number of admissions (that’s up five per cent from 1995), and a growing number of those are women. Melissa Caughey, the study’s co-author, attributes the rise in female heart attack cases (also known as acute myocardial infarctions, or AMI) to overall poorer health across the board. These younger women were also more likely — when compared to men in their same age bracket — to have kidney disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, all existing conditions that make them predisposed to heart attacks in general. Through the study didn’t delve into the particular factors that may cause heart disease, Caughey did attribute stress, obesity, and a decrease in physical activity as three of the main precursors to heart attacks. The stressful and sedentary life, according to the research, is what highly contributes to these early-in-life cardiovascular problems.
But the health risks don’t show the whole story. Caughey and her team also revealed that while certain lifestyle factors certainly contribute to the higher risk, heart attack symptoms in women are more difficult to identify, and women, in general, receive far different treatment and care than men. “Compared with young men, young women presenting with AMI had a lower likelihood of receiving guideline-based AMI therapies,” the study authors write. “A better understanding of factors underlying these changes is needed to improve the care of young patients with AMI.” While doctors and medical professionals must do more to study, care for, and treat female heart attack patients, the experts suggest, we can still take active steps to help reduce our risks. For starters, cutting out smoking (and secondhand smoke, as well) is key. Eating a healthier diet, choosing physical activity and keeping stress to a minimum are the most effective lifestyle changes you can make to set yourself on the right path. Understanding your family history and knowing your risks can mean faster, more effective, and overall preventative care. It may just take some personal changes first.