Individuals who suffer from the most severe type of heart attack have become younger and more obese over a period of two decades, findings of a new study revealed.
Heart attack victims also tend to smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared with patients 20 years ago.
For the study, which is set to be presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago on April 4, researchers looked at the heart disease risk factors of nearly 4,000 patients who had ST-elevation heart attacks (STEMI), a serious type of heart attack that can cause disability and even death.
They found that between the years 1995 and 2014, the average age of STEMI patients in the U.S. dropped from 64 to 60 years old.
The researchers also found that obesity rate rose from 31 to 40 percent over the same period and the proportion of those with diabetes increased from 24 to 31 percent.
The researchers likewise noted an increase in high blood pressure rising from 55 to 77 percent, and COPD, which is often attributed to smoking, increasing from 5 to 12 percent.
Despite that smoking has been on a downtrend over the past 20 years due to efforts of the government and healthcare service providers, the researchers found an increase in smoking rates among heart attack sufferers from 28 to 46 percent.
Experts said that the results of the study are surprising and worrisome.
"The medical community has done an outstanding job of improving treatments for heart disease, but this study shows that we have to do better on the prevention side," said study researcher Samir Kapadia, from Cleveland Clinic.
Kapadia and colleagues urged healthcare professionals to inform patients during routine checkups about reducing the risk factors of heart attack by losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and being physically active.
Patients were also advised to do their part by placing their health as the highest priority to come up with lifestyle changes that can prevent heart attacks.
Many of the factors that boost a person's likelihood to suffer from this heart attack can be blamed on lifestyle. Changing unhealthy lifestyles such as smoking helps reduce the factors that increase risks for heart attack.