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Study finds heart attack significantly increases risk of other health complications

The University of Leeds study reveals heightened long-term health risks post-heart attack. Socioeconomic disparities exacerbate outcomes. Tailored care plans are imperative. Insight for informed healthcare decisions.

Rahul Pratyush Written By: Rahul Pratyush New Delhi Published on: February 21, 2024 13:00 IST
Heart attack
Image Source : FREEPIK Heart attack raises risk of health issues: Study

A recent extensive study conducted by researchers at the University of Leeds reveals alarming findings regarding the aftermath of heart attacks. Analyzing over 145 million records spanning nine years, the study underscores a significant escalation in the risk of enduring severe long-term health complications subsequent to a heart attack. Despite advancements in treatment, heart attacks pose a substantial threat, with approximately one-third of patients developing heart or kidney failure, 7% experiencing subsequent heart attacks, and 38% succumbing to any cause within the study period.

The study, supported by The British Heart Foundation and Wellcome, emphasizes the heightened susceptibility of heart attack survivors to various health ailments, including heart failure, atrial fibrillation, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, severe bleeding, kidney failure, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Notably, individuals from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds face a graver prognosis, being more prone to mortality or the onset of severe health conditions, particularly heart and kidney failure.

Lead author Dr Marlous Hall, Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Epidemiology at Leeds' School of Medicine and Multimorbidity Research in 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 on 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.

The research, encompassing data from 229 NHS Trusts in England, unveils stark differentials in health outcomes between heart attack survivors and a control group. Notably, heart failure emerges as the most prevalent post-heart attack complication, affecting nearly 30% of survivors within nine years, compared to 9.8% in the control group.

Kidney failure developed in 27.2% of the patients in the study group, compared with 19.8% of the control group.

Some 22.3% of the study group went on to develop atrial fibrillation, compared with 16.8% of the control group and new hospitalisation for diabetes was seen in 17% of the study group, compared with 14.3% of the control group.

Other conditions were:

Severe bleeding - Study group: 19%; Control group: 18.4%

Cerebrovascular disease - Study group: 12.5%; Control group: 11.6%

Peripheral arterial disease - Study group: 6.5%; Control group: 4.06%

Death from any cause - Study group: 37.8%; Control group: 35.3%

The study highlights a concerning trend regarding the prevalence of depression among individuals post-heart attack, with hospitalization records indicating depression in 8.9% of patients, a figure 6% higher than the control group. Notably, women, especially those under 40 at the time of their heart attack, are more susceptible to developing depression, with 21.5% of young women compared to 11.5% of men in the same age group experiencing hospitalization for depression.

In contrast, the research found no overall disparity in the risk of dementia following a heart attack compared to the control group. Although the incidence of vascular dementia was slightly elevated in the study group (2.3% compared to 2.1% in the control group), the variance observed was marginal.

Furthermore, the study revealed a lower prevalence of cancer among heart attack survivors compared to the control group. While 13.5% of heart attack survivors went on to develop cancer, this figure stood at 21.5% in the control group. The reasons behind this disparity remain unclear, necessitating further investigation into the underlying factors influencing cancer development post-heart attack.

Morag Foreman, 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 of 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 of the British Heart Foundation emphasizes the enduring consequences of heart attacks, particularly the heightened risk of developing serious health conditions such as heart failure and atrial fibrillation. Moreover, individuals from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds face a greater risk of further ill health post-heart attack, highlighting the need for additional support and monitoring to mitigate these risks.

Addressing the implications of the study, Professor Williams stresses the importance of adequate resources within the NHS to deliver comprehensive care to heart attack survivors, thereby optimizing their long-term health outcomes and quality of life. As survival rates improve, understanding and addressing the multifaceted health challenges post-heart attack become increasingly crucial in ensuring optimal patient care and well-being.

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