Science Says Heart Attacks Are Less Deadly Today Than 20 Years Ago

Every decade in a person’s life brings its own set of health concerns to look out for. Rejecting the possibility of these issues isn’t just irresponsible, it also means you’re afraid.

You may have heard the depressing news that heart attacks are on the rise for younger people, especially women. But now, a new study published in JAMA Network Open says that Americans are less likely to experience a heart attack and less likely to die from them than they were in the mid-90s.
In what is possibly the largest and most comprehensive study of heart attacks in the United States to date, researchers tracked over four million Medicare patients between 1995 and 2014, and found that hospitalizations for heart attacks have declined by 38 percent, and the 30-day mortality rate has hit an all-time low of 12 percent.

“We are now at historic lows in the rates of heart attacks and deaths associated with heart attacks,”said Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a cardiology professor at Yale and lead author of this study—who added that this progress was “remarkable.”

Krumholz credits the efforts of The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Heart Association, as well as other organizations, for the decrease by promoting healthy lifestyle choices, addressing risk factors, and improving the quality of care. However, he also noted that “this is no time to be complacent. We document extraordinary gains—but the effort is far from finished. The goal is to one day relegate heart attacks to the history of medicine.”

Indeed, while the longitudinal study is extraordinary in its sheer scope, it’s also worth noting that it only surveyed the data of patients who were 65 and older—a significant limitation in a time in which heart attacks are no longer considered just a risk for older people.

There’s also been a push in recent years to dispel the myth that men are more susceptible to heart attacks or strokes than women. According to the ACLS, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., and yet recent studies show that women are still dangerously slow at recognizing their symptoms. To better prepare yourself and your loved ones, then, read about how heart attack symptoms can often differ for men and women.

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