Life-threatening Heart Attacks in Israel Drop by 50% Over the Past Decade

Deaths from severe heart attacks also fell because of better preventative treatment and gradual lifestyle changes, the Israel Heart Society says

Bellison Hosptial in Petah Tikva.
Zeev Stern

The frequency of life-threatening heart attacks has dropped by about 50 percent over the past 10 years, according to research conducted by the Israel Heart Society. The figures also show a decrease in mortality during severe heart attacks.

The drop in the number of life-threatening heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) seems to be attributed to better preventative care and a gradual change in lifestyles in Israel over a long period.

The Israel Heart Society says the reason for the drop in heart attacks over the past decade is because 82 percent of such patients undergo cardiac catheterization procedure within hours of the appearance of the signs of the heart attack. These numbers have been on the rise over the past 10 years in Israel, making the country one of the leaders in the category of cardiac catheterization procedure among developed nations.

“One of the main reasons for the decrease in mortality in Israel is the conducting urgent and life-saving catheterization, as well as widespread use of life-saving medicines such as drugs for thinning blood and reducing cholesterol during the heart attack and afterward,” explained Prof. Ran Kornowski, the president of the Israel Heart Society and head of the cardiology division at Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva.

“The improvement in preventative cardiac medicine, the move to a healthy lifestyle and physical activity and the war against smoking have also significantly reduced the likelihood of myocardial infarction and cardiac death,” Kornowski added.

Heart disease and circulatory system diseases caused by atherosclerosis are the leading cause of premature death in the world. But over the past 30 years, mortality from heart disease has dropped significantly in developed nations, including Israel, which has one of the lowest rates of mortality from heart attacks in the world.

Still, 15 percent of deaths in Israel are caused by heart attacks, the second most common cause of death after cancer. Over 20,000 cases of heart attacks occur every year in Israel, with the attacks coming at an average age of 64 for men and 74 for women.

The research comes from the Acute Coronary Syndrome Israeli Survey conducted by the Israel Heart Society. One of the findings of the survey concerns the response time from the moment the symptoms appear until the first contact with medical treatment. Men ask for medical help quicker than women: The median time for men is 90 minutes and 128 minutes for women.

The median time in Israel from the time of diagnosis to arrival at the hospital is 50 minutes, compared to 60 minutes in Europe. Doctors from the Israel Heart Society say this time is critical and directly affects the mortality rates from heart attacks, both at the time of the attack and for the patient in the future, too. Because of the relatively quick response, only one out of five incidents of heart attacks in Israel causes widespread damage to the heart muscle.

In 39 percent of the cases, the first medical contact occurs in the HMO clinics and urgent care centers, the most common place for receiving treatment for a heart attack. In 27 percent of the cases, the first medical contact is in a hospital emergency room, and 29 percent are treated first by ambulance crews.

The death rate among those hospitalized for a severe heart attack is 1.6 percent, and after a month the mortality rate is 3.1 percent. The death rate within a year from heart attacks is 7.6 percent.