Fewer Heart Deaths

Irish Examiner-Feelgood
Friday, 17 February 2012-02-17

Deirdre O’Flynn
Mostly Men

In Britain, heart attack deaths have halved in eight years to due to fewer smokers, better diet and improved care, according to research carried out by Oxford University.  Between 2002 and 2010 the death rate from heart attacks in men fell by 50%.

“In Ireland, we don’t have such detailed date for the last 10 years, but Central Statistics Office (CSO) data suggests that myocardial infarction (heart attack) deaths fell by 39% in the last 10 years,” says Dr Angie Brown, medical director of the Irish Heart Foundation. “Research funded by the Irish heart Foundation showed that, between 1985 and 2000, cardiovascular deaths fell by 47%.

“Although we do seem to have a similar reduction in heart attacks in Ireland, as in the British study, the trend in Ireland, Europe, the US – the developed world – is that cardiovascular deaths are plateauing out, but it may increase because of obesity, hypertension and diabetes.”

The British researchers analysed data on 840,000 people who either suffered a heart attack or who died suddenly from one.  The research revealed that lifestyle and treatment played an equal role in preventing cardiovascular deaths.

“In the 1985-2000 data, it showed that a reduction in population risk factors had the biggest impact,” says Dr Brown.  “These include a reduction in smoking, cholesterol, and blood pressure.  Awareness is better.  Also, people with angina are getting treatment quicker, people who have a heart attack are getting to hospital more quickly, and treatments have evolved.”

In addition, the British research showed that the number of men having heart attacks fell by on-third in 2002-2010.  But the bad news is that all these gains could be reversed by increasing levels of physical inactivity, particularly in young men and women.

The study found that the positive impact was biggest in the middle-aged group, says Dr Brown, and not in younger people.

Young men and women have increasing incidences of obesity and diabetes, both risk factors for heart disease.

While the British research is good news, in Ireland, one in eight deaths in those under 65 – regarded as premature deaths – in 2006 were as a result of coronary heart disease, according to the CSO.

For more information about heart health can be found at www.irishheart.ie