Days after Luke Perry’s death at 52 from a stroke, a new study on heart-attack rates has another grim reminder that the young are far from invincible — and maybe even more vulnerable than they used to be.
Heart-attack rates are rising for adults under age 40, researchers found after comparing data of heart attack survivors ages 41 to 50 with those survivors who were 40 and younger.
In fact, the proportion of heart-attack patients under age 40 has been climbing 2% every year for the last 10 years, according to findings slated for presentation at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific session later this month.
The researchers tried to unearth the risk factors explaining the rise and said substance abuse might share part of the blame. The youngest patients were more likely to use marijuana and cocaine compared to slightly older counterparts, even if they drank less alcohol.
“It seems that we are moving in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Ron Blankstein, a Harvard Medical School professor and a preventive cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
It was once “incredibly rare” to see heart attack patients under age 40, Blankstein noted. But some heart patients coming into emergency rooms now were in their 20s and early 30s, he said. He examined patient treatment information for over 2,000 people hospitalized from 2006 to 2016.
Although some heart attack patients were younger, they had the same risks of subsequent death from a repeat heart attack or stroke as patients in their 40s.
About 735,000 Americans suffer heart attacks every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 600,000 people die annually from heart disease, which encompasses heart attacks plus several other types of conditions. It’s America’s leading cause of death.