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Progress in the fight against heart disease.

Progress in the fight against heart disease

Life-style changes such as healthier diets have helped people reduce their chances of having a heart attack. Yet cardiovascular disease remains the nation's leading killer, claiming an estimated 978,500 U.S. lives in 1986, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

The American Heart Association's annual summary of statistics shows a steady decline in cardiovascular disease. From 1976 to 1986, death rates from coronary artery disease fell 27.9 percent. Death from stroke fell 40.2 percent to 147,800 in 1986. Mortality rates from high blood pressure also continued to decline. High blood pressure affects an estimated 60,130,000 people in the United States.

The progress against heart disease can be linked to a number of factors, including public awareness. More Americans are trying to quit smoking and are eating low-fat foods, says American Heart Association science consultant William Thies of Dallas. Doctors have a wide arsenal of new methods to combat coronary artery disease, but the best approach is to try to prevent fat from clogging arteries.

Rheumatic heart disease, in which heart valves are damaged by an infection that starts with a strep throat, also has declined. The disease killed 6,400 Americans in 1986; in 1950, it claimed 22,000. Early diagnosis and treatment of strep throat with antibiotics have contributed to the progress.

The association estimates the cost of treating all Americans with cardiovascular disease in 1989 will approach $88.2 billion, including the cost of hospital and nursing-home care as well as medication and loss of productivity.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 28, 1989
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