The risk of death from cardiovascular disease has almost halved in the UK in just a decade, placing it among the European countries with the lowest risk, a major research study has shown.
The rates, which were age-standardised to account for the variation in older people between populations, put the UK among those with the lowest heart disease mortality risk in Europe, with only Spain, the Netherlands and Luxembourg showing lower rates.
The fall in death rates means cancer is now for the first time the biggest cause of death among men in 13 European countries, including the UK.
In 2011, the most recent year for which data was available, 342.2 UK males per 100,000 population died from CVD and 184 from CHD, a reduction of 44.4% and 46.9% respectively since 2001.
The statistics were similar for women, with 232.5 female deaths from all CVD per 100,000 population in 2011 representing a 43.6% decrease, and 90.3 deaths from CHD representing a 50% cut from a decade earlier.
The European study showed vast mortality differences between countries with, for example, Albania showing increased risk of heart disease in the last 10-year period and Ukraine still seeing 1544.9 males and 721.2 females per 100,000 population die from CVD in 2012.
The European comparison is in the latest paper from the British Heart Foundation-funded CVD epidemiology research programme, led by Nuffield Department of Population Health senior researcher and programme lead for cardiovascular disease epidemiology Dr Nick Townsend.
The report, published in the European Heart Journal, said: ‘Some may point to decreases in CVD mortality as an indication of success for both national and Europe wide efforts to tackle CVD. However, the inequality of the current burden between European countries, the high mortality burden from CVD in comparison with other noncommunicable diseases, along with increases in risk factors for CVD, such as obesity, should sound a note of warning to health professionals throughout Europe.’
A previous study from the same series, published in June in Heart, which first revealed cancer was now a bigger killer in UK males, also pointed to variations within the UK, with the highest age-standardised CVD death risk in Scotland and the north of England.
That study pointed to factors including lipid-lowering medication and health education behind the fall in mortality rates.
But it concluded: ‘Despite significant declines in mortality in the UK, CVD remains a considerable burden, both in terms of health and costs. Both primary and secondary prevention measures are necessary to reduce both the burden of CVD and inequalities in CVD mortality and prevalence.’