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Three-Fold Heart Attack Increase In Hurricane Katrina Survivors

First-of-its-kind AMA disaster journal study released on fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

For immediate release:
Aug. 31, 2009

CHICAGO – On the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a new study finds a three-fold increase in the number of heart attacks among survivors. Findings from a first-of-its-kind study were published today in the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal.

“The data suggests a significant change in the overall health of the New Orleans community impacted by Hurricane Katrina,” said study lead authors Anand Irimpen, M.D., of the Tulane University Heart and Vascular Institute, Tulane University School of Medicine and Chief of Cardiology at Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System, and Sandeep Gautam, M.D., of the Tulane University Heart and Vascular Institute, Tulane University School of Medicine. “Hurricane Katrina’s effect was massive not only in the immediate destruction, but in its lingering legacy on peoples’ health.”

The study authors looked at patients admitted to Tulane University Hospital two years before Hurricane Katrina and two years after the hospital reopened. In the post-Katrina group, there were 264 heart attack admissions, out of a total of 11,282 patients (two percent), as compared to 150 admissions out of a total of 21,229 ( 0.7 percent) patients in the pre-Katrina group. The post-Katrina group had significantly higher prevalence of unemployment, lack of insurance, medication noncompliance and substance abuse than the pre-Katrina group. They were also likely to be local New Orleans residents (83% as compared to 70%) and living in temporary housing. 

In an accompanying editorial, lead author William Lanier, M.D., Professor of Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic said, “Hurricane Katrina inflicted an enormous and enduring physical, psychological and emotional burden on the survivors, and we are now just beginning to see some of the intermediate and long-term health consequences. There is a large body of evidence that suggests psychological stress is a contributor to cardiovascular disease.”

Dr. Lanier recommends that preventative measures such as exercise are essential to recovery.

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For more information, please contact:
Leah Dudowicz
(312) 464-4813