This week, a large study looking at heart attack hospitalizations found that rates of these hospitalizations have been increasing among women ages 35 to 54. And not just by a little – by a lot.
From the late 1990s to the early 2010s, the proportion of young (versus older) women admitted to the hospital because of a heart attack increased from 21% to 31%. What makes this increase especially impressive? During the same time, the percentage of women (and men) who were 35 to 54 years old declined relative to the total population.
The reason for the increase is uncertain, but young women who suffered a heart attack were more likely to be diabetic, hypertensive or have chronic kidney disease. The study did not look specifically at obesity but rates of that have been skyrocketing in young women. And obesity is associated with diabetes and high blood pressure – both of which lead to kidney disease.
Before you keep reading the rest of the blog, ask yourself how truly disturbed you are by this data. If you’re like most people, you’ve heard so much bad news about heart disease for so long you’ve become almost numb to the statistics. Yeah – heart attack rates going up in younger women sounds bad – but it’s just more of the same old same old.
The fact that even ONE woman in America under age 54 could experience a heart attack should be shocking to us. The fact that of all women experiencing a heart attack in our country nearly one third are YOUNG should be mortifying.
These are women with children at home, women hitting their strides in their careers, establishing themselves as innovators and leaders, women taking care of elderly parents. And they’re having more and more heart attacks?
Something is very very wrong.
Genetics can’t explain this. 20 years is not enough time for any sort of genetic shift to happen. Smoking doesn’t explain it – if anything smoking rates have been going down. Same with environmental toxins and pollution – still there, but probably stable at worst. We’re no more sedentary than we were 20 years ago.
But what has continued to change? Our food.
With progressively less healthful items taking up more shelf space in grocery stores, and with eating out becoming a regular, rather than rare, occurrence, average weight has gone up about 20 pounds during that same time. In the process, we have become the most over-fed but under-nourished society in human history.
At Step One, we know that food has wide ranging effects on our body – far beyond affecting cholesterol. Food modulates inflammation, blood clotting and oxidative stress. Food affects the gut microbiome, and blood pressure, and blood sugar. It affects mood and bowel function. The list goes on and on. In short, food is central to health and healing. Which is why we take food so seriously – and why we only offer products made exclusively with nutrient-dense, natural ingredients known to promote cardiovascular health.
Because young women (or young men, or older women or older men) should not be experiencing heart attacks. Period.