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Autopsies Show 1 In 12 Fallen Service Members Had Clogged Arteries (Video)

Prevalence of and Risk Factors for Autopsy-Determined Atherosclerosis Among US Service Members, 2001-2011

Autopsies of service members killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars show 1 in 12 had coronary atherosclerosis, or a hardening of the arteries. That's according to a study published in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences looked at the autopsy records of more than 3,800 troops who'd been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan. (The autopsies of troops who died of natural causes or committed suicide were excluded.) They found 8.5 percent of the autopsied troops had evidence of atherosclerosis in one or more of the coronary arteries - even though less than one percent had been diagnosed with heart disease before deployment.

Researchers say atherosclerosis is a silent killer:

"Military and civilian health care systems should continue to help patients reduce their cardiovascular risk factors, beginning in childhood and continuing throughout adult life. Despite remarkable progress in prevention and treatment, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States and other developed nations, and even small improvements in the prevalence of smoking and other risk factors may reduce death rates further and prolong healthy lives."

A quick side note: virtually all of the study's subjects were men - a full 98 percent.