Emory Heart Study Concludes Young Adults With Heart Disease Have Dramatically
Increased Risk of Death
ATLANTA - Young people who smoke, are overweight and/or have diabetes
are often not concerned about these risk factors for heart disease --
they assume heart attacks and stroke only happen to folks who are much
older. But a new Emory study published today in the Journal of the
American College of Cardiology concludes that people under 40 who
are diagnosed with coronary artery disease have a dramatically increased
risk of death.
"In fact, a third were dead
at follow-up and, for those with diabetes, the death rate was almost
two out of three," says study author Joe Miller III, MD, an Emory Heart
Center cardiologist and assistant professor of preventative cardiology
at Emory University School of Medicine.
Emory researchers studied
the medical records of 843 young adult heart patients (with an average
age of 35 for women and 36 for men) who were diagnosed with one or more
coronary artery blockages between 1975 and 1985. Dr. Miller and his
colleagues found that by age 50, about thirty-three percent of these
patients had died.
The highest death rate was
observed in patients with heart failure and/or those who had suffered
a previous heart attack. Smoking was also found to greatly increase
the risk of death.
"This study, once again,
points out how dangerous smoking is to heart health. Patients who continued
to smoke had a six times greater risk of death than those who didn't
smoke," says Dr. Miller. "The good news is that the risk for people
who quit smoking drops to almost that of non-smokers. However, the bad
news is that even if diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure
are treated aggressively, the cardiovascular risk does not go down for
people who continue to smoke."
Although an actual diagnosis
of blocked coronary arteries is fairly unusual in people under 40, Dr.
Miller sys the Emory study is a wake-up call that heart disease can
be a serious -- and potentially deadly -- problem for younger adults.
"Some studies have shown
that even teenagers can have the beginning of coronary artery disease,"
he says. "Although genetics can play a role, lifestyle factors are also
important in the development of heart disease. You are never too young
to reduce the risk factors you can control -- including stopping smoking,
losing weight if you need to and reducing cholesterol to a healthy level
with diet and medication if appropriate. Regular exercise and controlling
diabetes are also key to helping prevent cardiovascular disease."