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Heart Attacks Less Often Fatal Today
Date:6/21/2009

Improved care and overall better health are credited with improved survival odds,,

SUNDAY, June 21 (HealthDay News) -- People having a heart attack for the first time are more likely to survive these days than they would have decades ago, researchers have confirmed.

But now doctors are trying to puzzle out why heart attacks have become more survivable -- what doctors, hospitals and individuals are doing right, and how to keep that trend headed in the right direction.

"There are several possible reasons why heart attacks are not killing as many people," said Dr. Merle Myerson, director of the cardiovascular disease prevention program at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. "We need to look at those and determine how we should train the next generation of health-care providers to continue this progress."

Myerson co-authored a study, published this year in Circulation, that reviewed more than 10,000 first heart attacks in four widely separated areas of the United States. Her team found only a marginal decrease in the heart attack death rate, from 5.3 percent in 1987 down to 3.8 percent in 2002.

But when they looked at 20 indicators of severity, they found that heart attacks today are not as damaging and deadly as in years past.

Part of the reason for that, Myerson figures, lies in the quality of care people are receiving at the hospital. There are better medications available, including anti-platelet and anti-coagulant drugs to help clear blockages. There also are better medical procedures available, with more doctors becoming skilled at performing angioplasty and bypass surgeries and implanting stents to open blocked arteries.

But Myerson thinks people also might be having less-severe heart attacks because of treatment they've been getting.

"People are getting better preventive care before they have a heart attack," she said. Doctors are doing a better job di
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