Researchers from Yale University found that less than half of young heart attack patients were unaware of their risk of experiencing a heart attack. Furthermore, even fewer had discussed health risks with their doctors. Also, women were more likely to be uninformed of their risk than men.
Researchers examined 3,501 heart attack survivors, and only 53 percent of them were aware of their risk of a heart attack. Only 46 percent of these patients were ever informed about their risk of experiencing a heart attack by a doctor, and only 49 percent had discussed heart disease and risk modification with a doctor.
Women were 11 percent more likely to be told risks by their doctors compared to men but 16 percent less likely to initiate the discussion of heart disease and risk modifications.
Study lead author, Erica Leifheit-Limson, Ph.D., said, “We’ve made great strides in heart disease awareness in recent decades, but our findings suggest there is more work to be done. Many younger women and men, even those with multiple cardiac risk factors, are not receiving adequate counseling on heart disease.”
More than 15,000 women in American under the age of 55 die of heart disease each year, making it the number one killer of individuals in that age group. Younger women have a higher likelihood of death after heart attack compared to men in the same age group.
Data was taken from Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender on Outcomes of Young AMI Patients (VIRGO) and medical records were analyzed along with interviews with patients from over 100 hospitals. Study participants were between the ages of 18 and 55.
Prevalence of five cardiac risk factors were compared, consisting of diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking status. Reports were also looked at of clinical counseling for heart disease. Findings revealed that 97 percent of women and 99 percent of men had at least one risk factor for heart disease and nearly two-thirds had three or more risk factors. The most prevalent risk factor was high cholesterol.
Spanish participants were found to have less awareness of their heart disease risk and only 36 percent of them reported knowing of their risk prior to the heart attack.
Study senior author, Judith Lichtman, said, “Current clinical guidelines emphasize risk assessment and patient education, but these are not being adequately applied to younger individuals at risk for heart disease, particularly younger women. We need to empower individuals to seek information about heart health, and we need to ensure that care providers are educating patients about risk factor management.”