Coronary artery disease is emerging as an important cause of sudden death in individuals under age 40, particularly in Quebec, say researchers from the Montreal Heart Institute.
In this study, the researchers looked at the autopsy reports of 904 sudden deaths between 2002 and 2006 to determine the incidence of heart disease in Quebec.
Heart disease accounted for over 46 percent of sudden deaths in people under the age of 40.
Among those who had suffered a sudden death from heart disease, 56 percent had atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which can be caused by obesity, type 2 diabetes and smoking.
The remaining heart-related deaths were caused by congenital abnormalities.
Atherosclerosis is caused by a buildup of arterial plaque in blood vessel walls and results in a narrowing and hardening of the blood vessels, increasing risk of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
More and more, health researchers are finding that arterial plaque can start building up on the walls of coronary arteries during adolescence.
A spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation says this study is "a wakeup call for all Canadians," adding that many of the risk factors for atherosclerosis are controllable through diet and exercise.
Dietary strategies to prevent atherosclerosis and heart disease include eating a diet that's low in saturated fat and trans fat and increasing intake of soluble fibre from oats, psyllium and ground flaxseed.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, heart disease was responsible for 32 percent of all male deaths and 34 percent of all female deaths in Canada in 2002.
For more information on how you can work one-on-one with Leslie Beck, RD to reduce your heart disease risk check out our Nutrition Consulting service.
This study was presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto on October 27, 2008.
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