A rising tide of heart attacks followed Hurricane Katrina

November 15, 2016

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 15, 2016 -- Ten years after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, hospital admissions for heart attacks in the city were three times higher than they were before the storm, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016.

"After Hurricane Katrina devastated our city, the cardiology department found that we had very busy on-call nights," said Anand Irimpen, M.D., study lead author and professor of medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine and chief of cardiology at Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System in New Orleans, Louisiana. "We were being called into the hospital for heart attacks much more often than during pre-Katrina days. So, I suggested to our cardiology fellows that we study the data to look at this phenomenon objectively to determine whether this was a real increase or only a perception."

Investigators found that hospital admissions to Tulane Medical Center for heart attacks increased three-folds in the 10 years after Katrina (post-Katrina), compared to the two years before the storm in August 2005 (pre-Katrina).

In addition, post-Katrina patients were significantly more likely to have other risk factors for heart attack, including: "Although the general emphasis after an event such as Katrina is on rebuilding, we should not neglect the health of those affected by a disaster," Irimpen said. "This massive natural disaster may have had a greater impact on the development of chronic medical diseases than originally realized."

In other findings, the study identified additional potential health problems among the post-storm group. For example, these patients were more than twice as likely to abuse drugs and/or to have a psychiatric disease as their pre-Katrina counterparts. In addition, unemployment and a lack of health insurance were significantly more frequent among the post-Katrina group of patients. Post-Katrina patients were also more likely to receive prescriptions for heart-disease medications and drugs to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, although they were only half as likely to take their medication, compared to the pre-Katrina group.

For this single-center study, investigators examined 150 records for heart attack patients admitted to Tulane Medical Center in the two years before Katrina, and 2,341 records in the 10 years afterwards.

Since the study was observational, it only found an association between Katrina and an increase in heart attacks, not a cause of the increase. In addition to this limitation, the study involved patients at a single hospital and could not control for all possible influences on heart attack risk since data relied on medical records of past heart attacks.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, more than half a million people have a first heart attack, and about 200,000 have a recurrent one.

The good news is that risk for heart attack can be lowered with lifestyle changes such as avoiding smoking, eating a healthy diet, controlling high blood cholesterol and blood pressure, being physically active, controlling our weight, managing diabetes, reducing stress, and limiting alcohol, according to the American Heart Association.
Co-authors are Hassan Baydoun, M.D.; John Moscona, M.D.; Patrick Ters, M.D.; Ahmad Jabbar, M.D.; Alaa Boulad, M.D.; Indrajeet Mahata, M.D.; Taraka Gadiraju, M.D.; Muhammad Raja, M.D.; Kapil Yadav, M.D.; Holly Gonzales, M.D.; Christopher Westley, M.D.; Ryan Nelson, M.D.; Diane Davis, M.D.; Thomas Middour, M.D.; Chase Cannon, M.D.; and Sudesh Srivastav, Ph.D.

Author disclosures are on the abstract.

Note: Scientific presentation time is 1:30 p.m. CT/2:45 p.m. ET, Tuesday, Nov. 15 in the Science and Technology Hall, Population Science Section.

Additional Resources: Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Heart Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect association policy or position. The association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

American Heart Association

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.