BOZEMAN, Mont. - Heart disease continues to be the No. 1 killer in the United States. By the end of 2017, close to 1.5 million people will suffer a heart attack according to the American Heart Association.
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services says in 2015 close to 2,000 people in Montana were hospitalized for acute heart attack.
On Thursday health professionals from across the state were in Bozeman sharing best practices for treating heart attacks at the a STEMI conference. They concentrated on a new project called Mission: Lifeline.
The program is focused on reducing mortality rates associated with STEMI, which stands for ST-elevation myocardial infarction, often considered the most deadly type of heart attack.
According to the American Heart Association the project has helped decrease mortality rates from almost 7 percent to close to 4 percent.
Speakers at the event said where people live should not determine whether they live in the case of a heart attack. Experts say there needs to be equal access to cardiac care around the state.
NBC Montana met a flight paramedic who says timeliness is the most important factor in treating heart attacks.
"That is pretty much the ultimate importance. It's all about what we call 'medicine in motion.' That means doing things while we're moving the patient to the catheterization lab. Ultimately, that's the definitive treatment that can reduce mortality, provide the most benefit and the best outcome for the patient," said Jacob Devries.
Officials with Mission: Lifeline say one of their biggest challenges is getting people to call 911 when they're experiencing a heart attack. They explain only 30 to 35 percent of patients call. Many of them will drive themselves or have someone drive them to the hospital. Doing that could get in the way of immediate treatment and hinder chances of survival.