One in 12 in military has clogged heart arteries

One in 12 in military has clogged heart arteries, according to the Journal Of American Medical Association Tue, Dec 25 2012

Over one in 12 U.S. service members who died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had plaque buildup in the arteries around their hearts, which is considered an early sign of heart disease.  These soldiers had not been diagnosed with heart disease before deployment.
“This is a young, healthy, fit group,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Bryant Webber, from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland.  He also said that “These are people who are asymptomatic, they feel fine, they’re deployed into combat.”  “It just proves again the point that we know that this is a clinically silent disease, meaning people can go years without being diagnosed, having no signs or symptoms of the disease.”
Webber also said the findings also show that although the U.S. has made progress in lowering the nationwide prevalence of heart disease, there’s more work that can be done to encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle and reduce their risks.
This data comes from autopsies done on U.S. service members (98% men) who died in October 2001 through August 2011 during combat or from unintentional injuries.  This study resembles autopsy research on Korean and Vietnam war veterans, which found signs of heart disease in as many as 3/4 of deceased service members at the time.
They said that the  findings are not directly comparable, because there the prior study was performed when a a draft in place as compared to the current study.  The issue, when service is optional, healthier people may be more likely to sign up.
The researchers had information on 3,832 service members who’d been killed at an average age of 26. Approximately  9 percent had any buildup in their coronary arteries, and about a quarter of the soldiers with buildup in their arteries had severe blockage.
Some service members who had been obese or had high cholesterol or high blood pressure prior to entering the service were especially likely to have plaque buildup.
“Young, healthy people are likely to have a lower burden of disease today than their parents or grandparents had decades ago.”  That’s is due to better control of blood pressure and cholesterol and lower rates of smoking in today’s service members.
The major problem is that risks for heart disease that have not declined are obesity and diabetes.  “Obesity is the one that has not trended in the right direction,” Levy said.  “Those changes in obesity and diabetes threaten to reverse some of the dramatic improvements that we are seeing in heart disease death rates,” he added.
Even though these changes have occurred, this disease (heart disease) is still the number one cause of death among men and women.  The majority of people suffering from this disease, either knowingly or not, can prevent this issue by lifestyle changes.  

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Association, online December 25, 2012.