Heart Disease Is World's No. 1 Killer
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Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide -- accounting for one-third of deaths in 2019 -- and the death toll continues to rise, a new paper says.
China had the highest number of heart disease deaths last year, followed by India, Russia, the United States, and Indonesia. Heart disease death rates were lowest in France, Peru, and Japan, where rates were six times lower than in 1990.
Countries need to create cost-effective public health programs to reduce heart disease risk through behavior changes, according to the report's authors, who examined 30 years of data.
Heart disease cases nearly doubled over the period — from 271 million in 1990 to 523 million in 2019, and the number of heart disease deaths rose from 12.1 million to 18.6 million. In 2019, the majority of heart disease deaths were attributed to ischemic heart disease and stroke, with a steady increase from 1990. (Ischemic heart disease is a term for heart problems caused by narrowed arteries.)
Last year, heart disease was the underlying cause of 9.6 million deaths among men and 8.9 million deaths among women globally. More than 6 million of those deaths occurred in people between 30 and 70 years of age.
The findings were published Dec. 9 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Along with being the leading cause of death, cardiovascular disease (CVD) -- especially ischemic heart disease and stroke -- is a major cause of disability and rising health care costs.
There was a significant increase in the heart disease-related years of life lost and the number of years lived with heart disease-related disability doubled to 34.4 million from 1990 to 2019, the study found.
"Global patterns of total CVD have significant implications for clinical practice and public health policy development," said lead author Dr. Gregory Roth, an associate professor of cardiology at the University of Washington in Seattle.
"Prevalent cases of total CVD are likely to increase substantially as a result of population growth and aging, especially in Northern Africa and Western Asia, Central and Southern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern and Southeastern Asia, where the share of older persons is projected to double between 2019 and 2050," he said, calling for increased attention to promoting heart health and healthy aging throughout life.
"Equally important, the time has come to implement feasible and affordable strategies for the prevention and control of CVD and to monitor results," Roth said in a journal news release.