Heart Disease Deaths in Europe Dropping: Report

But researchers say obesity, diabetes could threaten progress made

FRIDAY, Sept. 28, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Heart disease deaths in Europe and the European Union are dipping but underlying factors may cause heart disease to increase in the near future, according to a new report.

Heart disease now causes 4 million deaths per year in Europe, down from 4.3 million in 2008, which represents a decrease from 48 percent to 47 percent of all deaths in Europe. Within the European Union, heart disease now causes 1.8 million deaths per year, down from 2 million in 2008, which represents a decrease from 42 percent to 40 percent of all deaths, new research shows.

Heart disease hits women especially hard and is the main cause of death for women in each of the 27 European Union countries, and is the leading cause of death for men in all the European Union countries except France, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain.

Death rates from heart disease vary widely among European nations. For example, the number of men who die from heart disease ranges from 60 percent in Bulgaria to 25 percent in France, while the number of women who die from heart disease ranges from 70 percent in Bulgaria to 30 percent in France and the Netherlands, the investigators found.

The report was released by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and the European Heart Network to mark World Heart Day on Sept. 29.

"The drop in [cardiovascular disease] mortality across Europe is due to a range of factors, not just a single initiative. For example, over the last few years we have taken steps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and to highlight the dangers of smoking. These measures have helped enormously, but at the same time many lifestyle-linked changes, such as increasing obesity and diabetes, will make it harder for us to stand still," ESC president Panos Vardas said in a society news release.

While the report offers good news, it needs to be viewed with caution, the news release indicated.

"Fewer lives are being lost to cardiovascular disease than in 2008. At the same time, the scale of the problem is enormous. [Cardiovascular disease] is still responsible for 4 million European deaths per year. This is a real human tragedy and a significant economic burden. We anticipate this burden will continue to increase in the coming years due to aging populations and unhealthy lifestyles," Vardas said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about heart disease.

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, Sept. 28, 2012
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