More people surviving heart attacks, Harvard Heart Letter cardiologist explains why

Published: July, 2011

Forty years ago, nearly 40% of heart attack victims who made it to the hospital never left, dying there from the attack or its complications. Today, that number is well below 10%. Younger victims fare even. And instead of lingering in the hospital for a week, some people now go home as early as the next day. In the July issue of the Harvard Heart Letter, Associate Editor Dr. Richard Lee explores the advances that have led to this remarkable improvement in heart attack survival. They include:

  • Better awareness of heart attack warning signs, which has helped people get to the hospital faster.
  • More widespread use of artery-opening angioplasty and stenting, which can sometimes stop a heart attack in its tracks before it can damage the heart muscle.
  • Advances in drug therapy.
  • Getting survivors out of bed and on their feet sooner, which helps prevent the formation of potentially deadly blood clots.
  • Increasing use of evidence-based treatments, such as checklists that help streamline heart attack therapy.

"I see this progress in the patients I care for at Brigham and Women's Hospital," writes Dr. Lee. "I estimate that up to half of the heart attack survivors I see during an average day would not have survived if they had had their heart attacks 25 years earlier."

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