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The geography of heart attacks

Daniel BuenoAmong people over the age of 20, the mortality rate from ischemic heart diseases, like myocardial infarction, declined in Brazil in the second half of the last century, but the trend apparently came to a halt between 2000 and 2010, when the figure remained stable. This was the finding of a study led by Cristina Baena, of the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR). The research project analyzed the absolute number of deaths from this cause according to official records in Brazil and compared the figure with demographic information from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). This change is not, however, the most significant discovery made by the study, which was conducted in collaboration with other researchers from PUCPR, Cambridge University in England, and the University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands and was published online in the journal Heart on July 25, 2013. Records from the Brazilian Ministry of Health’s National Mortality Data System indicate that while the number of people who died from ischemic heart disease in South and Southeast Brazil fell between 2000 and 2010, the opposite was true in the North and Northeast. According to Baena, the difference can not be blamed on the fact that records are less accurate in poorer regions. “Our method of analysis adjusted for underreporting,” she explains. The discrepancy in death rates from cardiomyopathy reflects the socioeconomic disparities that separate Brazil’s North and South and that find expression in human development indices, literacy rates, and healthcare structures. If these trends hold steady, the study warns, this distortion will have worsened by 2015. According to the authors, it is time to pay heed to this regional variation and draft public policies that are tailored to the specific needs of Brazil’s different regions in the fight against heart disease.