“History is the record of man’s steps and slips. It shows us that the steps have been slow and slight; the slips, quick and abounding.”
– B.H. Hart
An important thing that explains a lot of things is that good news takes time but bad news happens instantly.
Dwight Eisenhower ate a hamburger for dinner on September 24th, 1955. Later that evening he told his wife the onions gave him heartburn.
Then he began to panic. The president had a massive heart attack. It easily could have killed him.
If it had, Eisenhower would have joined more than 700,000 Americans who died of heart disease that year.
What’s happened since has been extraordinary. But few paid attention.
The age-adjusted death rate per capita from heart disease has declined more than 70% since the 1950s, according to the National Institute of Health.
So many Americans die of heart disease that cutting the fatality rate by 70% leads to a number of lives saved that is hard to comprehend.
Had the rate had not declined over the last 65 years – if we hadn’t become better at treating heart disease and the mortality rate plateaued since the 1950s – 25 million more Americans would have died from heart disease over the last 65 years than actually did.
Even in a single year the improvement is incredible: more than half a million fewer Americans now die of heart disease each year than would have if we hadn’t made any improvements since the 1950s.
Picture the population of Atlanta saved every year. Or a full football stadium saved every month
How is this not a bigger story?
Why are we not shouting in the streets about how incredible this is and building statues for cardiologists?
I’ll tell you why: because the improvement happened too slowly for anyone to notice.