Heart disease rates fall across Europe

Decline is link to the fall in smoking rates

Deaths from heart disease and strokes are declining across Europe, thanks to falling smoking rates and the use of preventative statins, according to a major new report.

Cardiovascular diseases of the heart and blood vessels (CVD) still remain the biggest killer in Europe, claiming four million lives a year. However medical professionals have welcomed a new report, which shows that CVD rates are now in steady decline in most European countries, including the UK, where deaths from CVD have dropped 50 per cent in ten years.

The report, which was carried out by the British Heart Foundation and examined ten years of data from 52 countries, also found that cancer has overtaken CVD as the main cause of death for men some countries, including Denmark, France, The Netherlands and Spain. And for the first time cancer has overtaken CVD as the main cause of death among women in a European country; Denmark.

“This is probably due to improvements in the behavioural risk factors associated with CVD, such as decreases in the number of people smoking tobacco, along with better treatments, including preventive ones, such as the increasing use of statins,” said the report's coauthor Dr Nick Townsend, a senior researcher at the British Heart Foundation. “However, increases in some risk factors, such as rising levels of obesity, suggest that these decreasing trends may be in danger of reversing.”

However the study did identify a European divide with eastern European countries, including Russia and Ukraine, fairly badly. In both countries the death rate from CVD for 55-60 years olds is greater than the equivalent death rate in Western Europe for those in their 80s. For example in Russia 915 men and 517 women died per 100,000 of the population in 2010, whereas the equivalent rates in the UK were 205 and 129 per 100,000 respectively.

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