Fewer patients dying from heart disease, study says
Whether the result of surgical advancements, greater use of medications or emphasis on healthy habits, a new study finds that fewer people with heart disease are dying from heart problems compared to 20 years ago.
While this is good news for advancements in heart care, the same cannot be said for other health concerns. The Mayo Clinic study, published in the journal Circulation, also found that people with heart disease are now more likely to die from cancer and chronic diseases.
Researchers analyzed nearly 20,000 patients who underwent open-heart procedures at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., from 1991-2008. The patients were divided into three time periods based on when they had the heart procedure: 1991-1996, 1997-2002 and 2003-2008. Researchers followed up with patients five years after their procedure, concluding in December 2012.
The leading cause of death was heart disease in the first time period. During the second time period, heart disease led to about an equal number of deaths as other causes such as cancer and lung diseases. However, in the most recent time period (2003-2008), heart disease only accounted for 37 percent of deaths. In fact, there was a 33 percent decline in heart-related deaths over the two-decade study.
Of the heart-related deaths, the findings showed a significant decrease in deaths caused by heart attack and sudden heart rhythm disorders. However, there was no reduction in heart failure deaths.
These findings are surprising considering patients who underwent procedures in the third time period were generally older and had more complex heart disease and risk factors than patients in the earlier years. According to Dr. Rajiv Gulati, study author and interventional cardiologist, the reason for fewer patients dying from heart disease likely is the result of advancements in artery-opening procedures and broader use of cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering medications.
According to Dr. Maciej Malinski, cardiologist with Advocate Medical Group in Elgin, Ill., doctors are more focused on treating heart disease through advanced medical procedures and prescribing medications in the modern era. They are also placing a greater emphasis on the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise, to counter the negative effects of heart disease.
“Even for people who have heart disease, preventive measures, such as regular physical activity and eating a nutritious diet, significantly decrease probability of death from cardiovascular problems or experiencing recurrent cardiac events,” Dr. Malinski says.
According to Dr. Malinski, a majority of the heart problems he treats are caused by lifestyle, not family history of the disease.
“I always tell my patients that they are in control of their cardiovascular health because they control what they eat, how often they go to the doctor and how much they exercise,” Dr. Malinski says. “By making these changes, they can reduce their chances of experiencing a cardiovascular event by almost 30 percent.”
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