Yale study shows increased survival rates among stroke, heart attack patients

McLEAN, Va. (WJLA) – New research shows dramatic improvements in the outcomes of heart disease and stroke patients in recent years.

David Whiteree can read his poems now, but writing them is still a challenge; the 77-year-old suffered two strokes in 2013.

“When the doctor asked me who I was, I didn’t know,” he said.

Whiteree lost his ability to read, write and speak—devastating for a poet—but he survived.

“Each day is a new beginning for me,” he said.

According to a new Yale University study published this week, hospitalizations for stroke patients dropped almost 34 percent between 1999 and 2011, and fell 38 percent for heart attack patients. The risk of dying within a year after a stroke fell by 13 percent, and by 23 percent after a heart attack.

Sibley Memorial Hospital’s Dr. Jason Freeman speculates the drastic changes could be tied to quicker treatment and better lifestyle choices.

“Dietary changes, taking your medications, interacting with your doctors, exercising; all of those things are happening at increasing rates,” Dr. Freeman said.

Whiteree worked hard to regain his abilities and return home quickly.

“The fact that he’s continuing to do the things that he wants to do, like write poetry, and keep his mind stimulated, I think that’s really going to be key for his ongoing recovery,” said speech pathologist Dan Weinstein.

Though Whiteree isn’t ready to publish another collection of poems just yet, he said “I have every confidence that very soon I will be fluent again.”

The Yale researchers say what is most surprising is how rapidly these improvements in patient outcome have occurred, and that the improvements were greater than those for any other medical condition.