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EXPERTS BEWILDERED BY HEART DISEASES’ DECREASING TOLL

SHARE EXPERTS BEWILDERED BY HEART DISEASES’ DECREASING TOLL

Heart disease death rates have been retreating for almost three decades in Western industrialized countries, and experts at an international conference say they still don't know why.

"There is one less coronary (heart attack) every minute in this country," said Dr. Claude Lenfant, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. "We have witnessed a significant decrease in heart disease. But the cause of this decline is not clear."Lenfant said the decline in heart attacks in the United States started in the 1960s, when the rate of death from cardiac disease was more than 400 per 100,000 persons. The rate is dropping at a steady annual rate and now is about 330 per 100,000 persons.

"It keeps going down, and there is no sign of its leveling off," Lenfant told reporters Monday at the 2nd International Conference on Preventive Cardiology.

He said the reasons could be a reduction in smoking, better diets, more exercise or better treatment. But it would take a large, comprehensive study to pinpoint the exact reason for the change.

"The decline in the U.S. (of heart disease deaths) is extraordinary," said Dr. William T. Friedewald, associate director for disease prevention at the National Institutes of Health. "But the U.S. still has one of the highest rates in the world."

Japan, which already has one of the lowest rates of cardiac disease in the world, is also experiencing a decline in death rates.