British researchers examined data from more than 840,000 people who had heart attacks between 2002 and 2010. The death rate for men fell by 50 per cent while the death rate for women fell by 53 per cent. The biggest drop in death rates were in people aged 65 to 74.
The least improvement was seen in those aged 30-54 and in those over 85. In the youngest group, experts said jumps in obesity and diabetes may be undermining success in treating heart problems.
The researchers said the decline in heart attack fatalities was due both to a drop in the number of new heart attacks and to better treatment and drugs. The research was published this week in the journal, BMJ.
Other experts said there could be other reasons for the falling death rates and that it's difficult to prove what was responsible.
Many countries didn't have heart attack prevention policies in place until after the drop in death rates started, noted Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe, of the Institute of Cardiovascular Research at the University of Dundee, in an accompanying editorial.
"Ensuring that effective treatments are prescribed is less challenging than changing people's lifestyles," he wrote.
Heart disease death rates have also fallen steadily in other developed countries, including the U.S., due partly to healthier habits, like quitting smoking.