Certain group of heart attack survivors at risk for a repeat attack

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An estimated 805,000 people across the country experience a heart attack every year. Of that number, 200,000 will have a second one within the very same year after being discharged from the hospital. While these statistics are lower than previous years, the rates of a secondary occurrence still remain high. 

In a study by the American Heart Association published in Circulation, researchers looked at data from over 770,000 women and over 700,000 men hospitalized with a heart attack between 2008 and 2017. The goal was to determine the percent increase or decrease in repeat heart attacks over the past decade in both sexes.  

When adjusted for age, there was an overall decline in both men and women by approximately 13% and 17% respectively over the ten-year timeperiod. However, men aged 55 to 79 did not see this same reduction nor did women aged 21 to 54. 

“While the data did not reflect a decrease in secondary heart attacks in women, this population made up a very small percentage of the data,” Dr. William Gill, president of the Indianapolis American Heart Association board of directors, told News 8. “But this is a very interesting area of research that needs to be studied further. There may be something unique about that group that we don’t fully understand just yet.”

Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. To put it another way, one person dies every 36 seconds from the disease. But heart attacks are just one example of many types.

“The most common form of heart disease we think of is a heart attack, which occurs when there are blockages to blood flow to the heart muscle usually because plaque and cholesterol builds up over time,” Gill said. “But it’s much more than that. It’s not a single entity,”

Congestive heart failure is another example, which he describes as “the heart just doesn’t work efficiently” whether it’s because of a prior heart attack, damaged valves that affect blood flow to the body or high blood pressure.   

Heart disease is also the number one killer in Indiana. Twenty-two percent of Hoosiers died in 2017 as a result of the disease. Statistics also show an average of 352 people per 100,000 residents aged 35 and older died of heart disease between 2016 and 2018 .

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over 5 years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets. You can follow her on Instagram @reportergillis and Facebook @DrMaryGillis.