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New meds lead to drop in heart disease deaths

May 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
In the last 30 years, the number of heart disease deaths has decreased due new medications and treatments as well as some behavioral changes.Eighty-four-year-old Ben Davis is a perfect example of somebody who is beating heart disease. He had a triple bypass in 2000 and Ben just got a heart valve replacement.

"All of this repair work had helped me out a lot," Ben said.

Dr. Harindra Wijeysundera of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre followed Canadian heart disease patients like Ben from 1994 to 2005. He found deaths decreased by 35 percent.

"Just under 50 percent of that overall mortality was associated with behavioral changes and risk factors, specifically the biggest players being high blood pressure and high cholesterol," said Wijeysundera.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows an increased use of medications like beta blockers for hypertension. In 1994, 20 percent of patients in the study used them, but in 2005 more than 60 to 70 percent of patients were on them.

"If a patient enters the hospital for a heart problem or has had a heart attack or something called an acute coronary syndrome which means they're about to have one, they're put on beta blockers and they're usually on them for quite some time," said cardiologist Dr. Daniel Eisenberg of Providence St. Joseph Medical Center.

But in these findings, Eisenberg sees a warning for the future. Researchers discovered a six percent rise in overall cardiovascular deaths from diabetes and two percent rise in deaths from obesity.

"The fatter we are and the more sedentary we are, the higher the incidents of diabetes and high blood pressure which then leads to heart disease," said Eisenberg.

Ben's father died from heart disease. He is planning to live and enjoy a full life with his family.

"We have grandchildren and there's another one on the way now, so it's nice to be around for all of that. My dad missed a lot of that," Ben said.

Due to medication and behavioral changes, Eisenberg says he has seen a decline in heart bypass surgeries. But on the flip side, he has seen an increase in heart valve replacements because more people are living longer.


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