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Heart Attacks Down Sharply, Study Finds

24% Decline in Heart Attack Hospitalizations in California Population Since 2000

Heart Attacks, Deaths Declining continued...

“In heart disease, as with other medical conditions, we are always looking for new and better treatments,” lead researcher Alan S. Go, MD, of Kaiser’s research division, tells WebMD. “But these findings make it clear that we can have a profound impact by using the treatments we already have.”

The study was among the first to separate ST-elevation heart attacks, which cause major injury to the heart muscle, from heart attacks that tend to be less severe.

During the study period, ST-elevation heart attacks declined by 62%, but the death rate among people who had these severe heart attacks did not drop.

The death rate did significantly decrease in patients with less severe non-ST elevation heart attacks from 10% to 7.6%.

Trend Among Uninsured Unknown

Harlan Krumholz, MD, of Yale University Medical Center, calls the large decline in heart attack hospitalizations over the past decade “nothing short of amazing,” but he adds that the growing number of new cases of obesity and diabetes in the U.S. are ominous signs for the future.

Krumholz was principal investigator of the Medicare study reported earlier this spring, which showed a 23% decline in heart attack hospitalizations among elderly Medicare beneficiaries between 2002 and 2007.

“If obesity and diabetes continue to rise, I fear these declines won’t be sustained for very long,” he says. “For now, though, it is clear that something important is going on in cardiovascular medicine.”

Carnethon adds that heart attack incidence has probably not declined as much among uninsured people with little access to preventive care.

“The people in these studies were all insured,” she says. “I would guess that we would not see the same pattern of decline in people without health insurance.”

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