GALVESTON, Tex. — The U.S. death rates from heart disease and stroke are falling sharply, but researchers are not sure why, an American Heart Assn. study released Sunday shows.
Heart and blood vessel diseases remain the nation's No. 1 killer, but the study showed that from 1979 to 1989 the death rate from heart attack in the United States declined 30% and the death rate from stroke fell 31.5%.
Researchers said they are not sure why there has been such a marked improvement. Dr. Virgil Brown, heart association president, said: "It is clear that the declining number of people who smoke combined with better blood pressure control and lower cholesterol levels are major factors."
The study said that cardiovascular disease kills more people in the United States each year than cancer, accidents, pneumonia, influenza, suicide and AIDS combined.
It also said that the Eastern European nations of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Czechoslovakia, as well as the former Soviet Union, have the highest death rates from cardiovascular disease in the world.
Japan, Switzerland and France have the lowest mortality.