No heart attack risk? Think again

Posted Nov. 23, 2011, at 7 p.m.

When people think about who’s at risk for having a heart attack, the stereotypical victim is a middle-aged man. Well, some new research is offering a reminder that women and younger men are also at risk and often do not receive treatment that might reduce their risk.

Michael Miedema of the University of Minnesota and colleagues studied data collected from 3,038 heart attack patients between 2003 and 2010.

About 70 percent of the patients had not received diagnoses of heart disease prior to their attacks, and 60 percent of them were women or men younger than 55, the researchers reported at the American Heart Association’s scientific meeting in Orlando.

Moreover, despite having similar rates of high cholesterol as those generally considered at high risk for a heart attack, these subjects were about half as likely to be taking a statin drug to control their cholesterol levels and were significantly less likely to be taking aspirin, which can also reduce the risk, the researchers found.

“For those patients with known coronary disease, the evidence and guidelines are fairly clear about the benefit of aggressive medical therapy, including an aspirin and statin, regardless of your age or gender,” Miedema said in a summary of the findings. “However, for patients without known coronary disease, the optimal approach is much less clear. We currently only treat high-risk patients but our data show that women and young males, who rarely qualify as high risk, make up a substantial portion of the current heart attack population.”

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