Heart Attacks Drop Dramatically in Last Decade

Generic heart

A new large study - over 45,000 participants, shows that since 1999, there's been a 24 percent decline in heart attacks, and a 62 percent drop in heart attacks that do serious damage, as well as a 24 percent drop in deaths within a month of the heart attack. CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook sat down with CBS News anchor Katie Couric to discuss the new findings that appear in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Couric: What's behind this dramatic improvement in?

LaPook: What's really new over the past decade has been a dramatic increase in the use of medications that can lower a person's chance of having a heart attack. High cholesterol can be lowered using a statin. And if you're having a heart attack, you can open up the clogged artery using a procedure and decrease the odds of that a person will actually die from a heart attack.

Couric: I know the study looked at the reduction of heart attacks in the Kaiser Permanente health care system in Northern California. Are these trends consistent throughout the country? Something tells me no.

LaPook: No, you're completely right. There's a huge disparity of care and that's a real problem. In certain areas the odds of dying from a heart attack are much higher than others. One possible explanation is decrease for access to care in low income areas like Appalachia and Mississippi. Bottom line is you can't take advantage of the new advances if you don't have a doctor.

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  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for CBS News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook