UK obesity levels among the worst in Europe—heart disease statistics from more than 45 countries

November 27, 2017, Queen Mary, University of London
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A decline in deaths from heart attack and stroke in high income countries could be threatened by rising rates of obesity and diabetes, according to a study from the European Society of Cardiology with a leading contribution from Barts Heart Centre, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

The study also finds that the UK is lagging behind many lower income countries in some aspects of prevention.

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) study involved researchers from the UK (QMUL, University of Leeds, University of Oxford, University of East Anglia), Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal, and analysed cardiovascular disease statistics for 56 member countries. The countries not only include European nations but also some former Soviet states, North Africa and parts of the Middle East.

Published in the European Heart Journal, their analysis shows that huge inequalities persist with heart disease accounting for over 50 per cent of all deaths in many , compared with less than 30 per cent in the high income countries of Western Europe.

Just under half of the middle income countries saw an increase in disease prevalence over the last 25 years, unlike high income countries where there have been small but consistent declines.

Hypertension was more prevalent in middle income countries, and while smoking is in decline across member countries, over 40 per cent of men in middle income countries smoke, compared with around 30 per cent in high income countries.

The statistics reveal that while the UK performs well in some aspects of heart disease prevention, it is doing comparatively badly in terms of others. The UK has:

  • the highest prevalence of adult obesity in males (26.9 per cent of the population, compared to an average of 21.4 per cent amongst 47 countries), and the 2nd highest prevalence of obesity in females (29.2 per cent of the population, compared to an average of 22.9 per cent).
  • one of the highest levels of mean total blood cholesterol concentration, ranking joint 3rd for both males and females out of 47 countries.
  • the joint 5th (with Ireland) highest prevalence of raised blood cholesterol (?6.2mmol/L) at 21.7 per cent of population, compared to an average of 16.3 per cent amongst 47 countries.
  • the joint 4th highest body mass index (BMI) for males (27.5 kg/m2 compared to an average of 26.8 kg/m2 amongst 47 countries) and 7th highest BMI for females (27.1 kg/m2 compared to an average of 25.8 kg/m2).
  • the 10th highest prevalence of heavy episodic drinking in the past 30 days, affecting 27.1 per cent of the population, compared to an average 19.1 per cent amongst 47 countries.
  • the 3rd highest prevalence of insufficiently active adults, at 40 per cent of the population, compared to an average of 26.5 per cent amongst 36 countries.

However, the UK has the lowest prevalence of raised blood pressure at 15.2 per cent of the population, compared to an average of 24.2 per cent amongst 47 countries, and prevalence of smoking is among the lowest in Europe. This contributes to the UK's position in the lower half of the cardiovascular mortality rankings for ESC member countries.

Lead author Dr Adam Timmis from Barts Heart Centre, QMUL, said: "Heart disease still remains the leading cause of death for middle income countries, while declines in high-income countries mean that cancer deaths have now become more common there. But this downward trend for high-income countries is being threatened by the emerging obesity epidemic that is seeing rates of diabetes increase almost everywhere.

"Interestingly, the figures show that disease is as much of a problem for women as for men, as we see that more are dying than before. This is especially the case for younger women, and these deaths are largely preventable through lifestyle changes."

The authors warn the limitations that apply to the quality, precision and availability of the data demand cautious interpretation.

Explore further: For the first time in history, high blood pressure is more common in lower-income countries

More information: "European Society of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2017" European Heart Journal (2017). DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehx628

Related Stories

For the first time in history, high blood pressure is more common in lower-income countries

August 8, 2016
For the first time in history, people living in low- and middle-income countries have a higher prevalence of hypertension - or high blood pressure - than people living in high-income countries, according to new research in ...

Better health care as important as controlling risk factors for heart health

August 27, 2014
Keeping a healthy heart may have as much to do with the quality of health care you have available as it does you avoiding risk factors such as smoking, bad diet and little exercise.

Cardiac patients underserved globally due to lack of rehab programs

July 15, 2014
Rehabilitation programs must become an integral part of cardiac care to significantly reduce the burden of living with heart disease, one of the most common chronic diseases and causes of death globally, according to York ...

Highest diabetes prevalence in poorest countries

March 21, 2016
(HealthDay)—Diabetes prevalence is highest in poorer countries, even after adjustment for traditional risk factors, according to a study published online March 10 in Diabetes Care.

High blood pressure affects 1.13 billion people, says new study (Update)

November 15, 2016
The number of people in the world with high blood pressure has reached 1.13 billion, according to new research.

Recommended for you

BMI is a good measure of health after all, new study finds

December 11, 2018
A new study from the University of Bristol supports body mass index (BMI) as a useful tool for assessing obesity and health.

A correlation between obesity and income has only developed in the past 30 years

December 11, 2018
It is well known that poorer Americans are more likely to be obese or suffer from diabetes; there is a strong negative correlation between household income and both obesity and diabetes. This negative correlation, however, ...

Simple tips to curb overindulgence can help stop pounds piling on at Christmas

December 10, 2018
A study by the University of Birmingham and Loughborough University has shown that regular weighing at home and simple tips to curb excess eating and drinking can prevent people from piling on the pounds at Christmas.

Obesity intervention needed before pregnancy

December 6, 2018
New research from the University of Adelaide's Robinson Research Institute supports the need for dietary and lifestyle interventions before overweight and obese women become pregnant.

Gene that lets you eat as much as you want holds promise against obesity

December 4, 2018
It sounds too good to be true, but a novel approach that might allow you to eat as much food as you want without gaining weight could be a reality in the near future.

High childhood BMI linked to obesity at age 24 in women

December 3, 2018
Girls who gain weight more rapidly between the ages of 5 and 15 are more likely to be obese at age 24, according to researchers.

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.