A new study has found that the rate of coronary artery disease among U.S. service members has declined sharply in the past half century, falling to roughly one in 10 military personnel today from about eight in 10 during the Korean War.
The findings came as a surprise to some researchers, who expected that the nationwide rise in obesity and Type 2 diabetes, including among young people, might have led to a similar trend in heart disease in the military. But instead it appears that national reductions in other risk factors for heart disease, like hypertension, smoking and high cholesterol, have had a greater effect on cardiovascular health.
The authors of the new report, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Tuesday, drew their findings from autopsies and medical records of nearly 4,000 service members who were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan from 2001 to 2011. Most of them were men, and their average age was 26.
Overall, 8.5 percent had some degree of hardening and narrowing of the coronary arteries, known as coronary atherosclerosis.