The number of Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized for heart trouble declined by nearly 24 percent between 1998 and 2008, according to a study released this week by the American Heart Association. According to the report, the proportion of heart disease hospitalizations is declining faster than other leading causes of hospital admissions. The study's authors, who analyzed data from Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized for any reason during the time frame, attributed the reduced hospitalizations to improved diagnostic tests, more heart disease education for physicians and increased use of preventative medications.

The report also found:

  • There were almost 410,000 hospitalizations of Medicare patients for heart-related conditions in 2008, down from nearly 539,000 in 1998.
  • The total proportion of hospital admissions for Medicare patients declined 18.9 percent for pneumonia admissions and 11.6 percent for hip fractures.
  • The proportion of hospital admissions for chronic bronchitis increased 8.5 percent.
  • Overall, Medicare-related hospitalizations increased from roughly 11 million to 13 million between 1998 and 2008.