Technology & Science

Coronary artery disease hitting younger Quebecers

Coronary artery disease is emerging as an important cause of sudden death in individuals under age 40 in western Quebec, according to a new study.

Research is 'a wakeup call,' says heart group spokeswoman

Coronary artery disease is emerging as an important cause of sudden death in individuals under age 40 in western Quebec, according to a new study.

The study, led by Dr. Dabit Arzamendi, a fellow of the Montreal Heart Institute, was based on autopsy reports, which determined the incidence of coronary heart disease among individuals who died suddenly in that region.

Heart disease accounted for 46.5 per cent of sudden deaths in Quebecers in the under-40 group, according to the research released Monday at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto.

The congress, which began Sunday and ends Wednesday, is co-hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.

Arzamendi, who came to Montreal from Spain and is in his 30s, said his idea for the research began when he saw the number of people his age who needed a stent — a special medical tube — to open their plaque-ridden arteries.

"My experience with patients in Barcelona is quite different from here. I've never seen such young people coming into the [Canadian] lab needing an intervention," he said.

Obesity, diabetes, smoking common factors

The autopsy research found 1,260 sudden deaths occurred between 2002 and 2006 in western Quebec, and 304 of those deaths were in people 40 and under.

After he omitted those who had died from non-cardiac causes, Arzamendi was left with 90 patients whose death was due to cardiac causes.

Of the 90, 50 — or 56 per cent — had atherosclerosis, or a hardening of the arteries, which can be caused by obesity, diabetes and smoking.

The rest died from congenital heart defects, or other abnormalities.

The study calls for more public health programs to make people aware of the health dangers of a buildup of arterial plaque.

"This is a wakeup call for Quebecers and all Canadians," says Dr. Beth Abramson, a spokeswoman for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. "It is a tragic yet preventable situation. Since many of the risk factors for atherosclerosis are controllable, most of these deaths could likely have been prevented. We need to make people aware and educate them on how best to protect themselves and their families in the future, because we are all at risk."

The foundation says atherosclerosis can lead to:

  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.

now