TUESDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- People with more risk factors for heart disease are more likely than healthier individuals to suffer a first heart attack, according to a large new study. No surprise there. But patients with fewer or no risk factors are more likely to die from that heart attack.
"Our data show that patients with multiple risk factors present much earlier in age than patients with fewer or no risk factors. However, patients with fewer or no coronary heart disease [CHD] risk factors overall had higher mortality after the first heart attack," said Dr. John Canto, lead study author and director of cardiovascular prevention, research and education at the Watson Clinic in Lakeland, Fla.
The researchers looked at data on about 540,000 patients with a first heart attack but without previous heart disease, from the U.S. National Registry of Myocardial Infarction (NRMI) for 1994 to 2006. They focused on five major risk factors: high blood pressure, smoking, high blood cholesterol, diabetes and family history of heart disease.
Of these patients, about 14.5 percent had no risk factors for heart disease when admitted to the hospital, 81 percent had one to three risk factors, and 4.5 percent had four or five risk factors.
But of those who died while still in the hospital, nearly 15 percent had no risk factors, while slightly more than 4 percent had four risk factors and about 3.5 percent had all five. With every drop in number of risk factors, the odds of dying rose.
The researchers noted that because the NRMI is an observational study, they cannot prove cause and effect between mortality rate and number of heart disease risk factors.
The study, published in the Nov. 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, is slated for presentation Tuesday at an American Heart Association meeting in Orlando, Fla.
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