A new study published in JAMA Network Open has identified sex-specific risk factors for heart attacks in young adults.
Increasing numbers of people younger than 55 are being hospitalized for heart attacks in the U.S., and the largest increase has occurred among young women. This study sought to determine sex-specific demographic, clinical, and psychosocial risk factors for heart attacks in these adults younger than 55. The study enrolled over 4,500 participants (half heart attack patients and half matched controls) with a mean age of 48 years and identified seven risk factors that accounted for the majority of total heart attack risk. The risk factors that were identified included diabetes, depression, hypertension, current smoking, family history of premature heart attack, low household income, and hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol).
Interestingly, there were significant differences between young women and men regarding the risk factor associations; hypertension, depression, diabetes, current smoking, and family history of diabetes were more strongly associated with heart attacks in women under 55, while hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) was more strongly associated with heart attacks in young men.
The study’s authors noted that heart attack rates in younger women have risen in recent years and that young women are a demographic that is often neglected in heart studies. However, their research has previously shown that young women have two times risk of dying after a heart attack compared to men at a similar age, and the number of young women having heart attacks in the U.S. is about the same as the number of young women diagnosed with breast cancer. Raising awareness and addressing risk factors could save thousands of lives in the coming years.