And "wow" it was. And "wow" it is.
In just six years, death rates and heart failure in hospitalized heart attack patients have fallen sharply, most likely because of better treatment, the largest international study of its kind suggests.
The promising trend parallels the growing use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, powerful blood thinners, and angioplasty, the procedure that opens clogged arteries, the researchers said.
â€œThese results are really dramatic, because, in fact, theyâ€™re the first time anybody has demonstrated a reduction in the development of new heart failure,â€ said lead author Dr. Keith Fox, a cardiology professor at the University of Edinburgh.
The six-year study involved nearly 45,000 patients in 14 countries who had major heart attacks or dangerous partial artery blockages. The percentage of patients who died in the hospital or who developed heart failure was nearly cut in half from 1999 to 2005.
And the heart attack patients treated most recently were far less likely to have another attack within six months of being hospitalized when compared to the patients treated six years earlier -- a sign that the more aggressive efforts of doctors in the last few years are working. There have been other signs that better treatment of heart patients has been saving lives, but not on a scale as large as this international study, the researchers said.
â€œItâ€™s much more dramatic than we expected, in the course of six years,â€ Fox said.
The study appears in Wednesdayâ€™s Journal of the American Medical Association. It was funded by a grant from Sanofi-Aventis, maker of several heart drugs including Plavix and ACE inhibitors. Fox and several other authors reported getting fees and grants from Sanofi and other drug makers.
Dr. Steven Nissen, former president of the American College of Cardiology and a Cleveland Clinic heart specialist, said the study doesnâ€™t prove the recommended treatments were saving lives but he suspects thatâ€™s the case.
â€œI really am encouraged that those things that appear in our guidelines are being used by physicians around the world,â€ Nissen said.
Here's a link to a more complete report:
And, for your chuckle of the morning, remember the words of Robert Bloch,
"I have the heart of a child. I keep it in a jar on my shelf."