Steve May 4, 2022

Heart attack sufferers surviving longer, but still room for improvement, study finds

A new study indicates that heart attack sufferers in the United States are surviving longer, but disparities remain. Photo by Pexels/Pixabay

May 4 (UPI) — Heart attack sufferers are surviving longer and experiencing fewer subsequent heart emergencies, an analysis of Medicare data published Wednesday found.

Patients hospitalized following a heart attack between 2007 and 2009 were 14% less likely to die over the next 10 years than those hospitalized due to a heart attack a decade earlier, data published Wednesday by JAMA Cardiology showed.

They also were 23% less likely to experience a second heart attack over that 10-year period, the researchers said.

The improving survival and lower recurrence numbers among heart attack sufferers reflect improvements in treatment for problems such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels, which increase the risk for heart issues, according to the researchers.

A better understanding also exists of the types of lifestyle changes, such as healthier diets and exercise, that improve heart health after a heart attack, they said.

“In the last 20 years, the medical profession has worked hard to improve the quality of care and subsequent prevention,” study co-author Dr. Harlan Krumholz told UPI in an email.

“But we cannot be complacent, as we can do even better,” said Krumholz, a cardiologist and scientist at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

This includes addressing racial disparities in post-heart attack survival, given that Black Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and Asians and Hispanics were up to 24% more likely to experience a recurrence or die within 10 years, he said.

The findings are based on an analysis of data for nearly 4 million Medicare beneficiaries who survived an acute myocardial infarction, also called a heart attack, between 1995 and 2019.

Among all of the patients covered under the federally funded healthcare benefits for those age 65 years and older, 73% suffered a second heart attack and 27% died during the 10-year period following their initial heart attacks, the data showed.

However, 10-year survival rates improved by about 2% annually during the study period, while the risk for a second heart attack fell by 3% annually, the researchers said.

Still, previous studies have linked poverty with a higher risk for death after a heart attack, and suggested that heart attack sufferers of color are receiving worse care.

The United States also has higher rates of heart attack deaths than most other wealthy nations, research indicates.

“We still have work to do — there remain disturbing health equities, with [lower] survival among Black Americans and those with low incomes,” Krumholz said.

“Also, many patients do have another heart attack — a bit more than a fourth of the people — and we can do a better job preventing those adverse events,” he said.

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