By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – I know that I talk about ways to help combat the risk of heart attack and stroke on a regular basis but that is because I know that the steps we take to prevent illness are far and away more important than any treatments we can provide after a condition reveals itself.

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Evidence of the value of prevention can be found by a recent study that found major advances over the past decade in the treatment and prevention of heart disease and stroke appear to be paying off.

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Scientists looking at more than 33 million Medicare patients report that incidence of chest pain, heart failure, strokes and deaths from heart attacks, all decreased between 1999 and 2011.

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Certainly preventive measures do not account for all of this but, believe me, it makes a difference.