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People Under 50 Aren't Safe From Heart Attacks

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"[Akosah] certainly raises an important point that [heart] disease starts a lot earlier than we thought," Charles Cannon, MBChB, FACC, tells WebMD. Cannon, an interventional cardiologist at the University of Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, reviewed the study for WebMD. Doctors should be aware of the risk factors and "treat them as aggressively as you can."

Michael Criqui, MD, tells WebMD that it is important for doctors to look at their patients' HDL, or 'good,' cholesterol as well as the 'bad' LDL type. "HDL is critical," says Criqui, who served on an American Heart Association task force on risk reduction and is professor and vice chairman of the department of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine.

"Risk factors do count. " Criqui says. "The most totally preventable problem of all is cigarette smoking. In this study ... 60% of those with [heart] disease smoked. That's completely unacceptable.

"If you do not want to develop [heart] disease before you're 50 years old, you need to be aware of your cholesterol and your HDL," Criqui says. "You need to not be obese ... to not smoke, to control your weight ... to avoid early diabetes and [high blood pressure]."

"The only risk factors on this list you can't do anything about is being a male and family history. But you can modify your risk."

Vital Information:

 

  • Doctors report that they are beginning to see more patients under age 50 suffering heart attacks. Many of these younger patients do not show typical signs of being at risk, such as high blood pressure or seriously elevated cholesterol levels.
  • Observers note that this finding shows heart disease probably starts to develop earlier in life than previously thought.
  • Others add that the high rate of smoking in the study group is "unacceptable." They say it's also important to know what your HDL and LDL cholesterol levels are, as well as to watch out for obesity and diabetes.
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