Australian experts have found a big increase in patients having heart attacks but who have no obvious risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, being obese or smoking.
The study found the rate of healthy patients having heart attacks went up from 11 per cent to 27 per cent over eight years.
Doctors say it’s a misperception that coronary disease only happens in older men who’ve smoked or lived an unhealthy lifestyle.
“We know that this is not true. These findings highlight that we still don’t know everything about coronary disease,” said Heart Research Australia’s Professor Gemma Figtree
“Young, fit, women and men develop life-threatening plaque in their heart arteries.
“Our goal is to really identify this at a much earlier stage and to target specific treatments to minimise the progression of disease before it causes heart attacks.”
Prof Figtree and her team reviewed almost 700 heart attack patients.
“As interventional cardiologists we all remember the fit, young patient that comes through the door and looks up at you and says ‘Why me?'” Professor Figtree said.
“It really triggered us to try and look at how often this was happening in patients who don’t have traditional, modifiable risk factors.”
Doctors found the surprise heart attacks occurred across all age groups, and were just as dangerous and deadly as those in people with risk factors.
“We’re actually doing a big study at the moment, thanks to the support of Heart Research Australia, where patients are consenting to give some blood, and we’re trying to understand, particularly in this population who don’t have traditional risk factors, what might be driving their atherosclerosis and heart attacks,” Professor Figtree said.
Symptoms of a heart attack include:Tightness or heaviness in your chest that becomes severe: Pain in the shoulders and/or arms: Jaw and neck pain: Sudden difficulty breathing: Nausea
If you or someone you know is experiencing heart attack symptoms, call triple-0 immediately.
Cardiologist Dr Ravinay Bhindi from Royal North Shore Hospital said the findings showed how important it was to know the symptoms of a heart attack.
“Everyone needs to be aware of what heart attack symptoms are because even though there may be nothing we can treat, at least if you know you are having symptoms of a heart attack, you can get to hospital and be treated,” he said.