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Heart attack rate drops over a 10-year period

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Researchers reported a study in the New England Journal of Medicine saying that the rate of heart attacks dropped significantly over a 10-year period and the more severe forms of heart attacks dropped even more dramatically.

The study of more than 46,000 Northern California Kaiser Permanente patients between 1999 and 2008 showed that the heart attack rate fell 24 percent over the period and the rate of ST-segment elevation heart attacks, the most damaging heart attacks, dropped 62 percent.

Dr. Alan Go at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland and colleagues was cited as saying that the decline was due to the fact that more people take medications to lower their cholesterol and blood pressure and quit smoking among other things.

Additionally, the short term heart attack rate for heart attack reduced to 7.8 percent in 2008 from 10.5 percent in 1999.  For the most serious types, the rate dropped to 23 percent in 2008 from 47 percent in 1999.

So what is a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when a section of heart muscle does not receive blood flow due to the artery blockage. If the blood flow is not restored within minutes, the heart muscle becomes damaged from lack of oxygen and begins to die.

Each year in the United States, about 1.1 million Americans suffer a heart attack and about 460,000 of heart attacks are fatal.

What causes heart attack?

Most heart attacks result from coronary artery disease which is developed when some plaque builds up on the inner walls of the coronary arteries. 

Plaque buildup in coronary artery is the cause for most cases of heart attacks. Heart attack can also occur due to microvascular disease and a severe spasm of a coronary artery resulting sometimes from taking some drugs, emotional stress or pain, exposure to extreme cold, and cigarette smoking.

What are the risk factors?

The adjustable major risk factors for heart attack include smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, and diabetes.

Risk factors that you can do nothing about include age and family history of early cardiovascular disease.

What are Heart attack symptoms?

Not every heart attack victims experience the same signs or symptoms. Many cases start slowly as mild pain or discomfort. Some people do not have any symptoms at all.

Angina (pain in the chest) is something people need to watch out. Other signs include upper body discomfort in one or two arms, the back, neck jaw or stomach, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness or fainting or breaking out in a cold sweat.

How could I prevent heart attack?

Plaque does not belong to older people alone.  Although Heart attack is unlikely to kill younger people as often, the arterial condition gets worse and worse as a person gets older.

Dr. Colin T Campbell, a distinguished nutritionist at Cornell University says in his book China Study that a study shows 70 percent of American young soldiers who died in the Korean war were found to have more or less plaque on their inner artery walls. Dr. Campbell says it's their diet that causes the condition.

This condition can be reversed simply following a healthy diet.  And you don't have to resort to statins to lower cholesterol to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which leads to heart attack.

Dr. Dean Ornish, a University of California - San Francisco medical professor, actually uses his diet and lifestyle program to help people with artery blockages and as many as 99% of people who participated in the program stopped progression of the condition which in many cases is reversed.

A two-year study released on March 1, 2010 suggests that long term weight loss diets like low-carbohydrate, low-fat or Mediterranean diets significantly reverse arterial clogging and the artery atherosclerosis reduction is due to weight loss induced decline in blood pressure.

Recently vitamin D deficiency has been found associated with heart attack.

Edward Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, and colleagues reported a study in the June 9, 2008 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine saying that men with vitamin D deficiency doubled their risk of heart attack compared to those sufficient vitamin D.

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