Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in European countries.

In recent years, the rates of coronary heart disease and related deaths have significantly decreased across Europe. However, risk factors for heart disease, like obesity and diabetes, have risen during the same time frame. A new study examined sex-specific trends in heart disease mortality and compared its incidence by age for the years 1980 through 2009.

In a comparison of men and women under the age of 45, the mortality rates of men and women decreased between 1980 and 2009. The rate of decrease in death by heart disease slowed in recent years, but there were still notable decreases in the 1980s and 1990s. This could likely be due to awareness of heart health awareness and abstinence from the risk factors that can cause cardiac issues. Coronary heart disease mortality have plateaued in adults under the age of 45 across most European countries.

When researchers looked at older people, there were fewer reductions in the instances of heart diseased related death. This may not be indicative of a problem, but rather, is a function of age and the lack of treatments available. When people 65 years of age and older develop heart disease, there is often little to be done besides manage the disease, as opposed to treating it with invasive surgeries. Similarly, older people, given unfavorable health, are more likely to die from treatments or disease.

The results indicate that across European countries, heart diseased related mortality in people ages 55-64 has plateaued in eightcountries, while heart disease related mortality in younger people has plateaued in six.

The decrease in heart disease mortality in Europe suggests a growing global awareness of heart disease risk factors. It is still important to avoid risk factors and do all in one's power to avoid heart disease. Even though death rates related to heart disease have dropped, incidence of disease itself and the issues that come with may not have decreased.

While some causes of heart disease are hereditary, Mayo Clinic outlines five ways to avoid heart disease:

  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercise for 30 minutes daily
  • Eat a heart healthy diet, free of red meats, oils, trans fats and dairy
  • Maintain a healthy weight for your height; avoid obesity
  • Get regular blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes risk readings from healthcare professionals.

The plateau in heart disease-related death rates in younger people in many European countries shows global promise, as the result is likely due to improved quality of life and the avoidance of risk factors.

Source: Nichols M, Townsend N, Scarborough P, Rayner M. Trends in Age-specific Coronary Heart Disease Mortality in the European Union over three decades: 1980-2009. European Heart Journal. 2013.