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Heart Attacks Becoming More Common in Younger Women

Young woman and sneakers

Young women aren’t often thought of as the face of heart disease. But a recently published study showed that although heart attack rates in the United States have declined in recent decades among 35- to 74-year-olds, the percentage of young people – especially women – who are having heart attacks is increasing.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, considered data from a multi-state study of more than 28,000 people hospitalized for heart attacks from 1995 to 2014. The results showed that 30 percent of those patients were young, ages 35 to 54.

The analysis also found that people having heart attacks were increasingly young, from 27 percent at the start of the study to 32 percent at the end.

Among women having heart attacks, the increase in young patients went from 21 percent to 31 percent, a bigger jump than in young men.

Many Women Unaware of Heart Disease

Despite these numbers, many young women spend more time worrying about cancer than their heart health.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that just 54 percent of women recognize that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women.

Younger women have to understand that heart disease knows no age requirement, says Ewa Gross, MD, PhD, Director of UH Women’s Cardiovascular Center. Focusing on your health can go a long way toward avoiding heart disease now – and later.

Being Proactive to Prevent Heart Disease

To stay heart healthy, women need to be active participants in their healthcare, Dr. Gross says.

“We know that women tend to be motivated when it comes to the needs of those they care for,” she says. “But this same principle does not necessarily apply to their own health needs.”

Two of the most important actions younger women can take to lower their risk of heart disease is to know their family health history and actively pursue a healthy lifestyle that focuses on prevention, Dr. Gross says.

Key Elements of a Healthy Lifestyle

Regardless of your age, living a healthy life doesn’t mean you have to live a deprived one, Dr. Gross says.

Instead, she says, try to:

  • Follow a healthy diet
  • Exercise
  • Abstain from smoking
  • Maintain healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Keep up with your medications

Heart Disease Treatment Options

Heart disease is caused by an obstruction or narrowing in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. The treatment for heart disease varies on the condition.

After screenings and tests, your doctors may recommend practicing more than lifestyle habits to keep your heart healthy. Those recommendations might include taking prescription medicines either for the long or short term to control symptoms and help reverse the disease's progress and prevent clots. Or surgery might be recommended.

Ewa Gross, MD, PhD specializes in women’s cardiovascular disease prevention and is Director of UH Women’s Cardiovascular Center.

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UH Women's Cardiovascular Center

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