Deaths from coronary heart disease in Scotland have fallen by almost 40 per cent over a decade, new figures have revealed.
While tackling heart disease is still a “national clinical priority” for Scotland, NHS figures showed the mortality rate from this fell by 37.6% between 2006 and 2015.
Coronary heart disease claimed the lives of 7,142 people in 2015 while cerebrovascular disease - which develops as a result of problems with blood vessels in the brain and can cause strokes or other health conditions - was the underlying cause in 4,310 deaths.
The death rate from strokes dropped by 37.8% over the same period while the overall mortality rate for cerebrovascular disease - which can also cause transient ischaemic attacks, known as “mini strokes” and bleeding on the brain - fell by 33.5%.
Heart disease and cerebrovascular disease death rates fell in both the most and least deprived communities - but the drops in the poorer parts of Scotland were not as large as they were in more affluent areas.
Death rates from coronary heart disease in the least-deprived areas fell by 38.5% over the 10-year period compared to a drop of 31.3% in the most-deprived areas.
For cerebrovascular disease, the most-deprived areas saw a 24% reduction in mortality rates, compared to 33.4% in the least-deprived areas - with the report saying this “implies a slight widening of relative inequalities”.
Scottish Government Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: “These figures show that our strategy for tackling heart disease and stroke is delivering real results for patients.
“Even in our most deprived areas, mortality rates for heart disease have decreased by 31.3% and for stroke by 24% under this Government. But we are not complacent – we know that reducing health inequalities is one of the biggest challenges we face. To tackle this we need to shift our focus towards addressing the underlying causes of ending poverty, fair wages, supporting families, and improving our physical and social environments. We are taking firm action in all these areas to support people to live healthier lives.”
“We continue to implement our refreshed Heart Disease Improvement Plan, which sets out the priorities and actions to deliver improved prevention, treatment and care for all people in Scotland living with heart disease, and our Stroke Improvement Plan was published in August 2014 setting out our ambition to deliver world-leading health and social care for people with stroke.”
However, Scottish Labour inequalities spokeswoman Monica Lennon accused the Scottish Government of “letting down people living in our most deprived communities”.
She said: “An overall decline in the mortality rate for coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease is, of course, welcome.
“But it is nothing short of a disgrace that, in the 21st century, the richest people in Scotland are still considerably more likely to survive a potentially-fatal disease than the poor.
“This follows on from a report this week that found that you are up to 98% more likely to die from cancer if you are from the most-deprived areas compared to the least-deprived.”
While death rates have fallen over a decade, the Liberal Democrats raised concerns about a slight increase in these between 2014 and 2015.
The mortality rate for heart disease was 214.3 people per 100,000 of the population, compared to 206.4 per 100,000 in 2014.
For cerebrovascular disease the rate increased from 87 per 100,000 people to 90.2 per 100,000 in 2015.
Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole Hamilton said: “We can’t allow the progress that we have seen in tackling heart disease and strokes to slide.”
He also highlighted the “huge deprivation divide”, saying: “These statistics show those from the poorest backgrounds are around twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease as the most well-off.
“SNP ministers can’t allow complacency to undermine efforts to tackle the factors that underpin these conditions, such as smoking, a lack of exercise and poor diets.”