According to a report published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (2016; 5 , e004245), rates of ischemic stroke and heart attack have steadily decreased since the 1950s. New information shows this trend slowing in recent years, with the greatest incidence increase occurring among 35- to 39-year-olds.
Stroke and heart attack information was gathered from the Myocardial Infarction Data
Acquisition System, a listing of hospital discharges in New Jersey. Researchers looked at data from 1995 to 2014—divided into 5-year chunks—and then categorized incidences by age group. There was a decrease in stroke and heart attack in the entire study population during the intervention time frame. However, when calculating rates in specific age ranges, the study authors saw an increase in stroke in younger groups (35–39, 40–44 and 45–49) from 2005 to 2014. Stroke incidence nearly doubled among those in the youngest age range. Conversely, adults aged 80–84 saw a 22% decrease in stroke and a 71% decrease in heart attack incidence between 1995–1999 and 2010–2014. These rates did not vary based on gender.
Birth year could play a role in these results, according to the authors. For example, people born between 1945 and 1954 tended to have lower obesity rates and were less likely to suffer a stroke than other groups.
The researchers also suggested that dietary differences may influence stroke statistics. “For example, while someone born in 1945 might have eaten oatmeal or eggs for breakfast as a child, younger generations are more likely to eat sugared cereals,” said lead researcher Joel N. Swerdel, MS, MPH, in a press release.
However, he hopes that this study highlights the need for all individuals to understand that stroke can affect younger individuals. “No matter what the cause, being aware of the risk in younger generations is important to encourage people to take their prescribed medications and strongly consider lifestyle changes, including exercise and a better diet,” he said.