UK death rates from cardiovascular disease have dropped by more than 40 per cent over a decade, according to a new report.
Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attack and stroke, remains Europe’s biggest killer and accounts for almost 45 per cent of all deaths (more than four million a year).
Heart disease kills 20 per cent of women in Europe each yearDr Nick Townsend
But the new study shows there has been a 44.4 per cent drop in death rates among men in the UK and a 43.6 per cent drop among women from the disease in the ten years to 2011.
Experts stressed there was still more work to do and pointed to large inequalities across Europe, with higher death rates seen in Eastern Europe.
Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, said: “This analysis is a powerful reminder that cardiovascular disease remains Europe’s biggest killer, despite the advances we’ve made in preventing and treating heart conditions through medical research.
“We can’t be fooled into thinking the battle against heart disease is won.
“For women the figures are particularly worrying – almost half of the women in Europe die from heart attacks or strokes.
“This shows the urgent need to fund more research towards faster, more accurate diagnosis and more effective treatments, alongside work to help prevent people developing heart and circulatory diseases in the first place.”
The analysis showed that eight European countries have cardiovascular disease death rates of less than 250 per 100,000 women. These are France, Israel, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the UK.
Meanwhile, six countries have death rates of more than 1,000 per 100,000 women. These are the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, Republic of Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Similar results were found for men.
The study, led by Dr Nick Townsend, from the British Heart Foundation centre on population approaches for non-communicable disease prevention at the University of Oxford, showed that cardiovascular disease is mainly a disease of old age.
But researchers said it still causes more than 1.4 million deaths in those aged under 75 and nearly 700,000 deaths in those aged under 65.
Dr Townsend said: “Cardiovascular disease results in 49 per cent of deaths among women and 41 per cent among men.
“To put this in context with deaths from other causes, coronary heart disease kills 20 per cent of women in Europe each year, while 2 per cent die from breast cancer.”
He added: “Although deaths from cardiovascular disease are decreasing overall in Europe, the increases we are seeing in obesity and diabetes will either counter that decrease, leading to a reversal of the favourable trend, or place an extra burden on health services in treating those at high risk of cardiovascular disease in order to prevent them from developing chronic cardiovascular conditions and to keep them alive into older age.”
Meanwhile, quitting smoking after a heart attack boosts mental as well as physical health, according to new research.
And many of the benefits, which include less chest pain and better quality of daily life and improved mental health, can begin within a month and become more pronounced after a year.
Professor Sharon Cresci, of the University of Washington, said: “Even in people who smoked and had a heart attack, we see fairly rapid improvements in important measures of health and quality of life when they quit smoking after their heart attacks, compared with people who continue smoking.”