US Deaths, Hospitalizations for Heart Disease and Stroke Fell Dramatically

Over the past decade, lifestyle changes, better treatment and effective preventive measures have led to a dramatic decrease in deaths and hospitalizations from heart disease in the United States.

Over the past decade, deaths and hospitalizations from heart disease and stroke have fallen dramatically in the United States, according to a large study of Medicare patients published in the Aug. 18, 2014, issue of Circulation. The declines seen from 1999 to 2011 are the result of lifestyle changes, better treatment, and effective prevention measures, said lead author Harlan Krumholz, MD, professor of cardiology at the Yale School of Medicine.

Krumholz’s team reviewed data from nearly 34 million Americans covered by Medicare, examining trends in rates of hospitalizations, dying within a month of admittance to hospital, being readmitted with a month, and dying during the following year. By the end of 2011, hospitalization rates for heart attacks had dropped 38%. Rates of unstable angina fell almost 85%. And hospitalizations declined about one-third for both heart failure and stroke.

Risk of death within one year after hospitalization for unstable angina or heart attack fell by more than 20%, and risk of death after hospitalization for heart failure and stroke declined 13%, the researchers said. These declines were greater than for any other medical condition. Krumholz noted that there were no “miracle” treatments during this time for heart disease treatments.

“Improved lifestyle, quality of care, and prevention strategies contributed to the decrease,” he said in a statement.

Emphasis on healthy diets and exercise has helped, as have use of antihypertension medications and statins. Reductions in cigarette smoking have also helped bring about these reductions in heart disease and stroke deaths.