Heart attacks: Less frequent and less deadly than 20 years ago

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Fewer older adults are having heart attacks, and more are surviving them, according to a study published March 15 in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 4.3 million people ages 65 and older who had suffered heart attacks over a 20-year period beginning in 1995. Back then, 20% of those included in the study died from their heart attacks. By 2014, that number had fallen to 12%.

In addition, the odds of being hospitalized for a first-time heart attack dropped by 38%. People also came home from the hospital a few days earlier in 2014 compared with 1995, and fewer people returned to the hospital within a year because of another heart attack.

The study authors credit more widespread and consistent use of medications (such as aspirin, beta blockers, and statins) for these improvements, along with increased use of the artery-opening procedure known as angioplasty plus stenting. Lifestyle changes likely also played a role.

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