They found that, overall, men and women aged 30 to 54 landed in the hospital for heart attacks about as often at the end of the decade as they did at its start.
Obesity and diabetes among younger adults appear to be overwhelming the improvements in treating high blood pressure and high cholesterol that have helped older Americans reduce their heart attack risk, Fonarow said.
"What would have been potentially large reductions in heart attacks across the board for all age groups have not completely emerged because of these offsetting risks that have really taken off," he said. "The rates of diabetes and obesity among young people have dramatically taken off over the last 20 years, to a point that some would call epidemic levels."
Even though women accounted for a quarter of younger adults hospitalized for heart attack, they were more likely to die from their heart attack and to stay longer in a hospital afterward, the Yale researchers reported.
Black women, in particular, proved very vulnerable, Gupta said. They consistently had much higher hospitalization rates than white women, while there was little difference between black and white men.
Delays in recognizing signs of a heart attack in a younger woman likely cause greater damage and death, Fonarow noted.
"Someone looks at this 30- or 40-year-old female -- they can't be having a heart attack, so it must be something else," Fonarow said. Women end up getting less aggressive treatment because it takes longer to detect their heart attack, he suggested.
Even younger women themselves don't recognize their heart attack risk, Gupta said.
"Young women don't know they are at increased risk of heart attack, because that's [misperceived as] a disease of old men," she said. "They don't see
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