Take detailed data (if you can get it) on heart attacks in a large, diverse patient population, do a bit of number-crunching based on patient age and gender, and see what you get. Kaiser Permanente researchers could, and did, in Northern California -- and what they got was an impressive reduction in heart attacks since 2000.
Overall, heart attacks declined 24% in patients age 30 and older. The rate of a severe type of heart attack, known as ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, fell by 62%.
The researchers write in their study conclusion:
"Increasing emphasis has been put on measures to reduce risk factors at the individual and community levels, including public bans on smoking and lower target levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and blood pressure; these changes have resulted in improved control of risk factors over time."
They also point out that such improvements were achieved despite the community's overall tendency to gain weight and develop diabetes.
Here's more about heart attack types, from the Cleveland Clinic. And an explainer of the two main types -- ST segment elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI, and non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction, or NSTEMI -- from About.com.
In the former, a blood clot blocks an artery completely (as opposed to partially), affecting more heart muscle and causing more damage.
-- Tami Dennis
Photo: The use of statins and other cardioprotective drugs, now taken by many people, certainly haven't hurt heart attack numbers, the researchers say.
Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times