Are young women with heart problems being overlooked?
07/07/2019 // Melissa Smith // Views

Heart attacks were once thought to be an "old man’s disease." Recently, they are becoming increasingly common in young people, especially young women, according to a study published in the journal Circulation.

A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart is cut off, so the heart muscle begins to die. This condition is also known as myocardial infarction.

In this study, researchers looked at how many younger people were having heart attacks. To do so, they analyzed data from a multi-state study involving 28,732 people hospitalized for heart attacks from 1995 to 2014. Data were from 21 hospitals in four states: Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

The researchers found that 30 percent of those patients were young, around the ages 35 to 54. The admission rates increased from 27 percent in 1995 to 1999 to 32 percent in 2010 to 1014. The increase was more pronounced among young women, increasing from 21 to 31 percent, which is a bigger jump than in young men.

"Cardiac disease is sometimes considered an old man's disease, but the trajectory of heart attacks among young people is going the wrong way. It's actually going up for young women," said Dr. Sameer Arora, the study's lead author. "This is concerning. It tells us we need to focus more attention on this population."

The researchers noted that high blood pressure and diabetes – two main risk factors for heart disease – were increasingly common in all patients who had heart attacks. Compared with young men, young women were even more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease. Seventy-one percent of young women who experienced heart attacks had a history of high blood pressure, while 39 percent had diabetes. Additionally, these women were less likely to receive treatments to prevent future heart attacks.


The researchers also noted that men and women experience different heart attack symptoms. Women are more likely to have less obvious symptoms than men, and their heart attack is more likely to be missed. Heart attack symptoms, such as crushing chest pain, are more common in men than women. On the other hand, women may experience symptoms like overwhelming fatigue, on-and-off pressure in the chest, and pain in the arms, back, jaw, neck, or stomach. Other signs may include shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness. The American Heart Association urges people to call 911 and get to a hospital immediately if they experience any of these signs.

Preventing heart attacks

Diet and lifestyle play the greatest role in preventing a heart attack. These lifestyle changes can reduce all controllable risk factors for heart attack, heart disease, and stroke:

  • Stop smoking – Smoking is one of the greatest contributors to heart attack. It may not be easy, but quitting now will save you or any of your family member who smokes, a ton of health problems on top of heart attack.
  • Follow a healthy diet – The food you eat affects the risk factors of a heart attack: blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and overweight. It is important to eat low-calorie, nutritious foods like the Mediterranean diet. (Related: Flavonoids from strawberries and blueberries cut heart attack risk in women by one-third.)
  • Get moving – Being physically active, even for at least 150 minutes a week, can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and maintain your weight at a healthy level. If you’re inactive, you can start out slow. A few minutes of moving around may offer some health benefits.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – Being overweight or obese can increase your likelihood of suffering from a heart attack. Having excess weight also increases your risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance – all of which are cardiovascular disease risk factors. You can maintain a healthy weight with proper diet and exercise.
  • Limit your alcohol intake – Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of hypertension, stroke, cancer, and other diseases. It can also increase triglyceride levels and cause irregular heartbeats.
  • Destress – Too much stress can increase your risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. Some effective destressing methods include yoga and mindfulness exercises.

There are other natural ways to avoid the threat of heart attacks – visit to learn more.

Sources include: 1 2 3

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