Heart attack deaths halve in eight years… due to fewer smokers, better diet and improvements to care
Researchers find lifestyle and treatment play equal role in survival ratesNumber of people having non-fatal attacks falls 30%Worries obesity and diabetes' levels could see number of deaths rise again
Deaths from heart attacks have halved in less than a decade, a study has found.
Experts say the dramatic decline has been fuelled by fewer people smoking and better treatment in NHS hospitals.
Improvements to diet and general health – which lead to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels – have also had an impact, they say.
Drop: The number of men and women having fatal heart attacks has fallen by 50 per cent in just eight years due to improvements in diet, care and a cut in the number of people smoking
But researchers warn that the encouraging trend could be halted because an increasing number of young people are obese or have diabetes – both key risk factors.
The conclusions come from a study, by Oxford University academics, which found the death rate from heart attacks between 2002 and 2010 fell by 50 per cent in men and 53 per cent in women.
Researchers were attempting to discover whether the drop was driven by prevention through lifestyle changes or treatment once a heart attack happened. They analysed data on 840,000 victims either admitted to hospital in England for a heart attack or who died suddenly from one.
And they found that lifestyle and treatment played an almost equal role in preventing fatalities.
Decline: The number of people having a heart attack has also fallen, with figures for men dropping 33 per cent and women 31 per cent (posed by model)
As well as revealing the plunging death rate the study also found that the occurrence of heart attacks fell over the same period by 33 per cent in men and 31 per cent in women.
In their report, published in the British Medical Journal, the researchers, from the university’s Department of Public Health, said just over half of the decline in deaths could be attributed to a fall in the number of new heart attacks, while just under half was due to a decline in the death rate following a heart attack.
Overall, 61 per cent of those who experienced an attack were men and 73 per cent of attacks happened in those aged 65 and over. They found that 36 per cent of attacks were fatal.
There are 230,000 heart attacks in the UK every year.
Professor Michael Goldacre, one of the study’s authors, said heart attack deaths had been dropping since the 1970s, and some reasons were clear.
During the study period, the proportion of smokers had dropped from 27 per cent to 21 per cent of the population and smoking bans had been introduced.
Factor The number of people smoking dropped by six per cent during the study period while the smoking ban was also introduced
In 2000, just 10million prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering drugs were written. /01/25/article-2091879-11758B56000005DC-91_233x317.jpg” width=”233″ height=”317″ alt=”Pleased: Professor Peter Weissberg said the impressive fall was due to better management of risk factors” class=”blkBorder” />
Pleased: Professor Peter Weissberg said the impressive fall was due to better management of risk factors
‘These gains should continue for the next few years but there are complications, with some factors moving in the opposite direction. Obesity and diabetes are two big risk factors for coronary heart disease and the youngest age group is showing a hint of levelling off.
We think people are fitter today but people in their 30s and 40s – the group just coming into the age bracket for heart attacks – had less exercise when they were young than older people.
‘They played less sport and tended not to walk to school, and this energy imbalance may be significant.’
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said: ‘This impressive fall in death rates is due partly to prevention of heart attacks by better management of risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol and due partly to better treatment of heart attack patients when they reach hospital.’