Is Surge in Heart Attacks Due to Hurricane Katrina?

Is Surge in Heart Attacks Due to Hurricane Katrina?

Published March 30, 2009

A new study suggests that the stress many suffered after Hurricane Katrina might actually be behind the surge in heart attacks more than three years later, reports The Associated Press.

 The rate of heart attacks is three times as high as the rate before the storm devastated the New Orleans region in 2005, Tulane University Hospital and Clinic doctors discovered. Two years before the hurricane 150 out of 21,229 patients, or 0.7 percent, were admitted to the facility for heart attacks; two years after the hospital reopened in 2006, 246 heart attack patients were admitted out of 11,282, raising the ratio to 2.2 percent.

 Still, one of the study’s authors, Dr. Anand Irimpen, admits the study – which examined trends at only one hospital – is not large enough to make any definite conclusions.

 “Is Tulane seeing more heart attacks now because of Katrina, or are the heart attacks coming to Tulane that would have gone someplace else before the storm?” Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director for cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at New Orleans’ Ochsner Health System, told the AP.

 Doctors also pointed out that the increase could be due to some unhealthy habits one can develop under stress.

 “We’ve seen patients who had quit smoking and started again, patients who were exercising and say they haven’t exercised since Katrina,” said Lavie. While there have been a lot of studies that have also shown an increase in heart attacks after a disaster, this could be the first time a rise was documented years after the event, he told the AP.

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