The death rate from heart disease, the nation's leading killer, has fallen more than 6 percent in just one year, federal health researchers reported Thursday.
Overall, the nation's death rate dropped 2.3 percent from 1988 to 1989, according to the latest statistics available, the national Centers for Disease Control said. The decline in heart disease mortality was a major reason; heart disease accounts for about a third of U.S. deaths.
The death rate from heart disease, including such causes as heart attack and heart failure, has been declining in the United States since the 1950s. But the 6.3 percent drop in one year came as a surprise.
Dr. Randolph Martin, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Atlanta's Emory University, said new drugs, a technique for clearing the arteries called angioplasty and surgical advances, all made during the 1980s, have "clearly made a difference."
The death rate from stroke also declined, by 5.7 percent in one year and 32.7 percent in a decade. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind cancer.
The death rate from cancer rose 0.2 percent from 1988 to 1989, and 1.7 percent for the decade.
The CDC report was based on reporting from death certificates.