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Good News for Sufferers of Heart Attack, Chest Pain

People who suffer a heart attack or severe chest pain today are much less likely to die, or to experience long-lasting effects, than their counterparts// even a few years ago, according to a new international study.

It's the first time that a study has shown a significant drop in the rate of heart failure and death over such a short time in this population.

The study finds that the change occurred at the same time that hospitals increased their use of certain drugs, tests and procedures that have been proven to help reduce the immediate and long-term impact of acute heart problems. The results suggest that concerted efforts to standardize heart care are working.

But, the authors caution, there are clouds in this sunny sky. Many patients who could benefit from all of the proven treatments aren't getting them. Previous data have shown that the U.S. actually lags behind some other countries in several aspects of acute coronary care.

The study is from the Global Registry of Acute Coronary Events (GRACE), which has collected data from 44,372 patients treated at 113 hospitals in 14 countries. The new paper is led by cardiologists from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, Hospital Bichat in France and the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center.

All the patients had suffered either a kind of severe heart attack called ST-elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI), or had acute coronary syndrome (ACS), which includes non-STEMI heart attack and a kind of chest pain called unstable angina.

Between 1999 and 2006, the use of heart-protecting drugs in these patients increased markedly, including use of aspirin, cholesterol-lowering statins, clot-reducing drugs called glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors, blood thinners such as clopidogrel and heparin, and blood pressure-reducing drugs including ACE inhibitors.

At the same time, the use of angiography to see blocked arteries in the heart and
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