A new study has found that heart attacks have dropped by a dramatic 24 percent in a large group of people studied in Northern California. Even more dramatically, there was a 62 percent drop in the most severe type of heart attack, known as an ST-segment elevation heart attack. A coronary artery is fully blocked.
The study’s authors don’t think it’s happened by accident.
“We believe improvements in targeting risk factors are in part responsible,” says the study’s senior author, Dr. Alan Go, M.D., the assistant director for clinical research at Kaiser Permanente, in Oakland, California. “We’ve observed in our population that fewer people are smoking, and there’s better control of blood pressure and cholesterol.”
The improvements may have included a decrease in smoking rates, and better control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This included the use of medications, such as beta-blockers, cholesterol-lowering statins, and aspirin.
Keep in mind that those who were studied, 46,086 heart attack patients in all, were considered “haves,” as in people who were employed and with insurance.
During the 10-year period of the study, they found that people who met recommended blood pressure levels doubled, and those with healthy levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), rose from 67 percent to 73 percent.
The authors of the study believe that the study highlights one of the major needs in health care reform. The American health care system is largely “reactionary,” said Jeremiah Brown, Ph.D., of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, in Lebanon, New Hampshire. “We do an excellent job of treating heart attacks and a relatively poor job of prevention.”