Death rates from heart diseases have fallen 60% since 1950

U.S. decline called `great accomplishment'


Death rates from cardiovascular diseases have plummeted by 60 percent since 1950, a federal agency is announcing today, indicating that the advance against the leading killer of Americans has been one of the major public health achievements of the 20th century.

It has been known for years that death rates from heart attacks and strokes have been falling. But this report, in summarizing trends over a century, dramatically illustrates what has been accomplished, experts said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in today's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that deaths from strokes have declined steadily since the beginning of the century, while those from heart disease peaked in the 1960s and have been falling since. If the heart attack death rate from 1963 had prevailed in 1996, the report said, an additional 621,000 Americans would have died in 1996.

In 1950, the death rate from heart disease was 307.4 per 100,000 people. In 1996, it was 134.6. In 1950, the stroke death rate was 88.8 per 100,000 people. In 1996, it was 26.5.

The decline "is stunning," said Dr. Gilbert Omenn, a public health expert who is executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Michigan. "It is a true success story of grand proportions."

Dr. David Jacobs, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, said the decline in the death rate is "surely one of the great accomplishments of the century."

The Centers for Disease Control said no one factor was responsible for the decline. One major factor was a decline in cigarette smoking over the past 30 years, with 25 percent of adults smoking today, down from 42 percent. Other factors included better control of blood pressure, decreases in cholesterol levels, and improved treatments.

Pub Date: 8/06/99

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