Death rates from heart disease continue to decline in most of the EU

June 25, 2013

Death rates from heart disease in the European Union have more than halved in many countries since the early 1980s, according to new research published online today (Wednesday) in the European Heart Journal [1]. In the majority of countries, there have been ongoing steady reductions in heart disease death rates in both sexes and most age groups, including among younger people, despite increases in obesity and diabetes during this time. However, heart disease remains a leading cause of death in Europe.

The authors of the study say their analysis shows little evidence for the hypothesis that the reduction in deaths from coronary heart disease (CHD) might be beginning to plateau among younger people in the EU as a whole as the gains from reduced smoking rates are increasingly cancelled out by recent upward trends in obesity, diabetes and other .

However, there was significant variation between individual countries, and evidence of a levelling off and even increases in heart disease deaths among some age groups in some countries. The absolute numbers of deaths from CHD remain high, even in countries showing encouraging downward trends in mortality.

"It is clear that there are some countries in which trends are cause for concern, where overall rates of decrease in CHD mortality do appear to have slowed, and a small number of countries in which CHD have begun to increase significantly in recent years or decades in younger subpopulations," said Dr Melanie Nichols, a Research Associate from the British Heart Foundation Health Promotion Research Group at the University of Oxford (UK), who is now working as a research fellow at Deakin University, Australia. "In addition, we should emphasise that cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in Europe, and it is important that we continue to focus efforts on primary prevention, including reducing smoking, improving diets and physical activity levels." [2]

Dr Nichols and her colleagues in the Oxford research group looked at trends in deaths from coronary heart disease between 1980 and 2009 in both sexes and four age groups: under 45, 45-54, 55-64, and 65 years and over.

They found that almost all EU countries had a large and significant decrease in from CHD over the last three decades in both men and women when all ages were considered together. Denmark, Malta, The Netherlands, Sweden and the UK had the largest decreases in mortality for both sexes during this time. The exceptions to these significant decreases were among men in Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, where the decreases were small and not statistically significant, and in Romania where there was a small, statistically significant increase. Among women, non-significant decreases were found in Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

There was some evidence that the downward trends were beginning to plateau in those aged under 45 among men and women in Italy, Latvia, Lithuania and the UK, among men in Poland and Slovakia, and among women in the Czech Republic and France. In the 45-54 year age group, there was evidence of a possible plateau in both sexes in Latvia and the UK, and also in Lithuania among women and Sweden, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia among men. In Greece, women aged 45-54 showed a constant and significant increase in death rates.

Dr Nichols, said: "Overall, across the EU, rates of death from coronary heart disease have continued to fall in most age groups in most countries. There are some exceptions, however, and there remain wide disparities across Europe in both the absolute rates of death from and the rates of improvement.

"In a small number of countries, there is some evidence that the decreasing trends may be slowing, including among younger age groups, probably due to increases in such as obesity and diabetes. These countries are, however, clearly in the minority."

In their paper, the authors say that the increase in risk factors for , such as smoking, obesity and diabetes, could still have an impact on death rates in years to come. "This effect is, however, not yet clearly apparent across the EU, and there may still be time for public health policy and action to have an impact on these risk factors . . . ," they write. "It is crucial that future research continues to monitor trends in CHD risk factors and mortality across the EU and to examine the relationships between preventable risk factors and CHD among younger adults. Any indications of potential plateauing of CHD mortality trends among younger – which were evident in this study for some countries but not yet for the EU as a whole – would be an important advance warning of potentially very high future burden of CHD as the cohort ages."

Dr Nichols points out that their results could be affected by differences in the way countries record and code data. In addition, the researchers were unable to look at any of the reasons for differences between countries, or to draw links between these results and the possible causes within countries.

Explore further: Rates of heart disease and stroke continue to decline in Europe

More information: [1] "Trends in age-specific coronary heart disease mortality in the European Union over three decades: 1980-2009", by Melanie Nichols, Nick Townsend, Peter Scarborough and Mike Rayner. European Heart Journal. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/eht159

[2] Cardiovascular disease causes over four million deaths a year in Europe and over 1.9 million in the European Union. It causes 47% of all deaths in Europe and 40% in the EU. Ref: "European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2012", by Nichols M, Townsend N, Scarborough P, Luengo-Fernandez R, Leal J, Gray A, Rayner M. European Heart Network: www.ehnheart.org/cvd-statistics.html

Related Stories

Rates of heart disease and stroke continue to decline in Europe

August 19, 2014
Deaths from heart disease and stroke are declining overall in Europe, but at differing rates, according to research, published online today (Wednesday) in the European Heart Journal.

New cardiovascular disease death rates show stark inequalities between European countries

August 25, 2015
Diseases of the heart and blood vessels are the most common cause of death in Europe, resulting in over four million deaths a year (45% of all deaths) according to the latest available figures published today (Wednesday) ...

Ten-fold difference worldwide in new cases of, and deaths from, bowel cancer

February 1, 2016
There's a 10-fold difference worldwide in the numbers of new cases of bowel cancer and deaths from the disease, finds research published online in the journal Gut.

Cancer overtakes heart disease as the main cause of death in 12 European countries

August 15, 2016
Although diseases of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease, CVD) kill more people worldwide than anything else, with 17.3 million deaths globally, cancer has now overtaken CVD as the main cause of death in 12 ...

Americans are getting heart-healthier: Coronary heart disease decreasing in the US

June 15, 2016
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. A new study evaluating recent trends in the prevalence of CHD in the U.S. population aged 40 years and older showed that CHD rates have ...

Deaths from ovarian cancer decline worldwide due to oral contraceptive use

September 5, 2016
Deaths from ovarian cancer fell worldwide between 2002 and 2012 and are predicted to continue to decline in the USA, European Union (EU) and, though to a smaller degree, in Japan by 2020, according to new research published ...

Recommended for you

New molecule may hold the key to triggering the regeneration and repair of damaged heart cells

August 21, 2017
New research has discovered a potential means to trigger damaged heart cells to self-heal. The discovery could lead to groundbreaking forms of treatment for heart diseases. For the first time, researchers have identified ...

Researchers investigate the potential of spider silk protein for engineering artificial heart

August 18, 2017
Ever more people are suffering from cardiac insufficiency, despite significant advances in preventing and minimising damage to the heart. The main cause of reduced cardiac functionality lies in the irreversible loss of cardiac ...

Lasers used to detect risk of heart attack and stroke

August 18, 2017
Patients at risk of heart attacks and strokes may be spotted earlier thanks to a diagnosis tool that uses near-infrared light to identify high-risk arterial plaques, according to research carried out at WMG, University of ...

Cholesterol crystals are sure sign a heart attack may loom

August 17, 2017
A new Michigan State University study on 240 emergency room patients shows just how much of a role a person's cholesterol plays, when in a crystallized state, during a heart attack.

How Gata4 helps mend a broken heart

August 15, 2017
During a heart attack, blood stops flowing into the heart; starved for oxygen, part of the heart muscle dies. The heart muscle does not regenerate; instead it replaces dead tissue with scars made of cells called fibroblasts ...

Injectable tissue patch could help repair damaged organs

August 14, 2017
A team of U of T Engineering researchers is mending broken hearts with an expanding tissue bandage a little smaller than a postage stamp.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.