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England's heart attack deaths halved in under a decade

The number of people dying from heart attacks has halved in just under a decade, according to a study.

Efforts to stop people smoking, manage high blood pressure and high cholesterol has helped cut the number of people having an attack.

Improvements in the hospital care of those who do suffer an attack have also contributed to a fall in the number dying.

Researchers writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) analysed data for England from 2002 to 2010.

They looked at over 840,000 people admitted to hospital for a heart attack or who died suddenly from one and assessed total death rates as well as numbers dying within 30 days of an attack.

The results showed the death rate fell by about half across the period, with a 50% drop in men and a 53% drop in women.

The rate of occurrence of heart attacks also fell by by 33% in men and 31% in women.

The researchers, from the Department of Public Health at Oxford, said just over half of the decline in deaths could be attributed to a fall in the number of new heart attacks, while just under half was due to a decline in the death rate following heart attack.

Overall, 61% of the people who experienced a heart attack were men, 36% of heart attacks resulted in death and 73% occurred in those aged 65 and over.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the study, said: “This impressive fall in death rates is due partly to prevention of heart attacks by better management of risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol and due partly to better treatment of heart attack patients when they reach hospital.

“But far too many heart attack victims still die from a cardiac arrest before medical help arrives.”

He said many deaths could be prevented if bystanders performed “hands-only” CPR if they saw somebody suffering a cardiac arrest, part of a new BHF campaign.

This aims to encourage people to pump on a victim’s chest to the beat of Stayin’ Alive without giving mouth-to-mouth.

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