Heart Attack Deaths Decline

A study released Wednesday indicates virtually no progress in keeping Americans from having a first heart attack. However, death rates from those heart attacks are falling.

At Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, new, more aggressive treatments and drugs are helping to help prevent heart attack victims from dying, reports CBS News Correspondent John Roberts.

"We recognize it early, we make decisions about the medications early and we get them through the system quickly," says Dr. Daniel Murphy.

Across the country, that kind of approach has made a dramatic difference. Wednesday's study found that between 1987 and 1994, heart attack deaths dropped 28 percent for men and 31 percent for women.

Dr. Daniel Levy has been conducting an even longer survey.

"From the mid-1960s to the present time, we've witnessed on a national level a monumental decline -- by over 50 percent -- of death from coronary heart disease," he says.

However, while technology and treatment advances have reduced the number of people who die from heart attacks, the number of people who develop coronary artery disease has actually increased -- because more Americans than ever are overweight. In addition, the rate of diabetes - another predictor of heart attacks -- has doubled since 1980.

"Unless we can intervene in the community with educational programs to get out there and make these people understand that they need to change their ways and reduce their risk factors, we're not going to make any progress," says Dr. Robert Frankel of Maimonides Medical Center.

While doctors are getting better at saving lives, they caution that people should not become complacent about heart disease. Two-thirds of those who die from heart attack never make it to the hospital.

Reported by John Roberts
©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved