Coronary Artery Disease at a young age

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Since the Korean war in 1953, examination of soldiers killed in action has shown evidence of coronary artery disease (CAD), even at a young age (av: 22 yo).  Gradually, the incidence CAD in soldiers has decreased from 77% to 8.5%:


Soldiers with Coronary Artery Disease


Viet Nam[2]

Middle East[3]

This decrease has to a large extent been caused  by less smoking. Rates have decreased in the military. The majority (51%) of service members smoked cigarettes in 1980, but by 1998 this figure has decreased to 30%, in part by making some army facilities such as navy ships smoke-free. However, these rates are still higher than today’s similar civilian rates (less than 25%).

Despite this, “healthy” American soldiers serving in today’s army have a number of other preventable risk factors, not expected to cause CAD at this age (av. 27yo), some unexpected in physically active young adults:

This study compares with others that have reported on childhood obesity: children can develop risk factors for heart disease as early as age 5, explaining  why young soldiers may have developed heart disease.

Concluson:  The importance of a heart healthy lifestyle beginning at a young age. This is what you can do. To see if you are at risk, check this cardiac risk assesment link

[1] Enos WF, Holmes RH, Beyer J. Coronary disease among United States soldiers killed in action in Korea: preliminary report. JAMA. 1953;152(12):1090-1093.

[2] McNamara JJ, Molot MA, Stremple JF, Cutting RT. Coronary artery disease in combat casualties in Vietnam. JAMA. 1971;216(7):1185-1187.

[3] Webber BJ, Seguin PG, Burnett DG, Clark LL, Otto JL. Prevalence of and risk factors for autopsy-determined atherosclerosis among US service members, 2001-2011.   JAMA. 2012;308(24):2624-2625

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