WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) -- Rates of coronary heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in the United States, have steadily declined in recent years, government researchers report.
A study by the National Institutes of Health found better management of risk factors by patients and doctors for developing CHD has led to a significant drop in the number of Americans with the condition.
Heart disease is responsible for one in every four deaths in the United States, with more than half of those deaths linked to coronary heart disease, by far the most common type of heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Typically, heart disease is caused by the build-up of plaques in the arteries, with blood flow being reduced or blocked as the inside of vessels are increasingly narrowed by plaques.
Although obesity and diabetes have both increased during the last 15 years, and both can increase risk for heart disease, most treatable risk factors -- hypertension, dyslipidemia, and smoking, as well as obesity and diabetes -- have been managed well enough in patients who do not already have CHD prevent it, according to researchers.
For the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers analyzed medical data on 21,472 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2015 for instances of myocardial infarction, angina and other types of CHD, defined as a medical diagnosis for the condition, analyzing trends from 2001 to 2012 in new patients.
From 2001 to 2012, the prevalence of CHD decreased from 10.3 percent to 8.0 percent, with incidence of angina decreasing from 7.8 percent to 5.5 percent and myocardial infarction declining from 5.5 percent to 4.7 percent.
Overall, researchers report significant drops in CHD incidence among women, all adults over age 60, non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, adults without high school education, adults with more than a high school degree and adults with health insurance.
Although researchers point out reductions in CHD were mainly seen among people who had not been diagnosed with any form of the condition, and there was no change in prevalence with more specific CHD risk factors, the decline represents a promising sign for one of the most common causes of death in the country.
"The decreasing prevalence of coronary heart disease, including angina and myocardial infarction, might result from a combination of prevention efforts and improvements in the management of risk factors," Dr. Sung Sug Yoon, a researcher at the National Center for Health Statistics, said in a press release. "Reasons for a reduction in the prevalence of CHD, angina, and MI in the lower CHD-risk groups could relate to general trends in lifestyle changes, such as improved diet, increased level of physical activity, or other factors such as prophylactic aspirin use among U.S. adults. Furthermore, anti-smoking prevention efforts have resulted in a decreased prevalence of cigarette smoking, which may have contributed to the decrease in CHD prevalence."