Study Shows Heart Attack Significantly Raises Risk Of Other Health Issues

Although heart attacks are a severe and life-threatening issue, the British Heart Foundation suggests that over 70 per cent of people now survive them if they receive prompt emergency treatment to restore blood flow to the heart muscle.
Study Shows Heart Attack Significantly Raises Risk Of Other Health Issues
Study Shows Heart Attack Significantly Raises Risk Of Other Health IssuesREPRESENTATIVE

According to a significant new study, experiencing a heart attack significantly raises the likelihood of developing other serious long-term health conditions.

The University of Leeds researchers have examined over 145 million records encompassing all adult patients admitted to the hospital during a nine-year span. Their aim was to determine the likelihood of long-term health consequences after a heart attack, making this the most extensive study of its nature.

Although heart attacks are a severe and life-threatening issue, the British Heart Foundation suggests that over 70 per cent of people now survive them if they receive prompt emergency treatment to restore blood flow to the heart muscle. However, previous studies have indicated that heart attacks can lead to health issues for patients, including additional heart and circulatory conditions, as well as conditions impacting other parts of the body and mental health.

The latest study, partially supported by The British Heart Foundation and Wellcome, reveals that individuals who experienced a heart attack were significantly more likely to develop additional health issues compared to individuals of similar age and gender who had not experienced a heart attack.

During the nine-year study, around one-third of the patients experienced heart or kidney failure, 7 per cent suffered additional heart attacks, and 38 per cent passed away from various causes.

People who experienced a heart attack had a higher likelihood of developing heart failure, atrial fibrillation, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, severe bleeding, kidney failure, type 2 diabetes, and depression compared to those who did not. However, the overall risk of cancer was lower, and the risk of dementia did not show a significant difference.

The research also found that individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds had a higher risk of mortality or experiencing severe long-term health issues after suffering a heart attack. Specifically, those from more disadvantaged backgrounds were more prone to developing heart and kidney failure in comparison to individuals from less disadvantaged backgrounds of the same age.

The primary author, Dr. Marlous Hall, who is an Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Epidemiology at the School of Medicine in Leeds and is involved in Multimorbidity Research at the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA), said, "There are around 1.4 million heart attack survivors in the UK who are at high risk of developing further serious health conditions. Our study provides accessible online information of the risk of these health outcomes for specific age, sex and socioeconomic deprivation groups so that individuals surviving a heart attack can be well informed about their future risks, in order to support informed healthcare decision making with their doctor.

"Effective communication of the likely course of disease and risk of adverse long-term outcomes between patients and healthcare professionals can promote positive lifestyle changes, encourage patients to stick to treatment, and improve patient understanding and quality of life."

"Our study highlights the need for individual care plans to be revised to take into account the higher demand for care caused by survivorship."

The researchers studied the data of adults 18 years and older who were hospitalized in 229 NHS Trusts in England from January 1, 2008, to January 31, 2017. This included 145,912,852 hospitalizations involving 34,116,257 individuals. Among these, 433,361 cases were of first-time heart attacks. The average age of those experiencing heart attacks was 67, and 66 per cent of them were male.

The research examined 11 non-fatal health consequences mentioned below, along with mortality from any cause, and contrasted the findings with a control group of 2,001,310 people.

The study revealed a notably higher likelihood of developing certain conditions after experiencing a heart attack, in comparison to the control group of patients.

It is probable that the cause was heart failure, as 29.6 per cent of the participants in the study developed the condition within nine years of their heart attack, whereas only 9.8 per cent of the control group experienced the same outcome during the same period.

In the study group, 27.2 per cent of the patients experienced kidney failure, whereas in the control group, the percentage was 19.8 per cent.

Approximately 22.3 per cent of the participants in the study group developed atrial fibrillation, while 16.8 per cent of those in the control group experienced the same condition.

In the study group, there was a 17 per cent occurrence of new hospital admissions for diabetes, while the control group had a rate of 14.3 per cent.

Other conditions were:

Severe bleeding - Study group: 19 per cent; Control group: 18.4 per cent.

Cerebrovascular disease - Study group: 12.5 per cent; Control group: 11.6 per cent.

Peripheral arterial disease - Study group: 6.5 per cent; Control group: 4.06 per cent.

Death from any cause - Study group: 37.8 per cent; Control group: 35.3 per cent.

In general, data from hospital admissions shows that 8.9 per cent of individuals experienced depression after suffering a heart attack, which was 6 per cent higher compared to the control group. Women were more prone to developing depression following a heart attack than men, particularly those who experienced a heart attack at a younger age. Among individuals under 40 at the time of their heart attack, 21.5 per cent of women had hospital records indicating depression, while only 11.5 per cent of men in the same age group did.

After a heart attack, there was no significant variation in the likelihood of developing dementia compared to the control group. Although the study group showed a slightly higher tendency for vascular dementia, the variance was minimal (study group 2.3 per cent; control group 2.1 per cent).

The study revealed that cancer occurrence was lower in the study group compared to the control group, particularly following a heart attack. Around 13.5 per cent of the study group developed cancer after their heart attack, while this figure was 21.5 per cent for the control group. Although researchers suspect various factors influencing this trend, the specific causes for the reduced cancer cases post-heart attack are not yet clear and warrant additional research.

Morag Foreman, who serves as the Head of Discovery Researchers at Wellcome, said, "This research provides valuable insight into the types of support and interventions that may be needed for patients following a heart attack, helping both doctors and patients make informed decisions during recovery and beyond."

"This research shows how cohort studies and analysis of large data sets can further our understanding of key health challenges and demonstrates the value to supporting discovery research in the field of population and public health. As survival rates following a heart attack improve, understanding the longer-term impacts on physical and mental health is crucial."

Professor Bryan Williams, the Chief Scientific and Medical Officer at the British Heart Foundation, stated, "While more people than ever are surviving heart attacks, there can be longer-term consequences. Particularly after a major heart attack, people can be left with irreparable damage to their heart, putting them at increased risk of heart failure.

"This study sheds further light on how heart attacks are associated with an increased risk of developing other serious health conditions, including heart failure and atrial fibrillation. It also found that those from more socioeconomically deprived backgrounds are at greater risk of further ill health after a heart attack, and at a younger age. The research suggests that these patients may benefit from additional support and monitoring to help reduce their risk of developing further health conditions."

"It is vital NHS has the resource, including staff, infrastructure and equipment, to deliver the care that patients need to help them stay in the best possible health for longer."

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