Orleans Parish Coroner, Dr. Dwight McKenna, says the number of
heart attacks has gone down over the past two decades and
older people are much more likely to survive them.
McKenna says this information comes from analysis of the health records of
4.3 million Medicare beneficiaries. A report published in the journal JAMA
Network Open found that, between 1995 and 2014, the rate of people in the
hospital for heart attacks dropped by 38 percent for people 65 and older, and
the death rate (within 30 days of a heart attack) fell by about 1/3,
to 12 percent, which the study’s authors describe as a “historic low.”
The length of hospital stays and number of re-admissions also
declined, and the number of people who had another heart attack
—or more than one—within a year, also fell.
Why is this happening? Dr. McKenna suggests that two factors
helped create the decline: increased use of treatments such as
cholesterol-lowering medications and coronary angioplasty—a now
common procedure to open blocked or narrowed arteries.
Another factor is people who are changing their lifestyles, such as
quitting smoking, eating more nutritious low-fat meals and
reducing stress. Dr. McKenna and other experts say the drop in
heart attack risk can be attributed to better medical care for
patients and an emphasis on prevention.
Heart disease, however, is still the leading cause of death for men
and women in the U.S., responsible for 1 in 4 deaths, according to
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.