BMJ: Cardiovascular disease still primary cause of death among women and kills more young women than breast cancer. Cancer has overtaken cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, as the UK’s No 1 killer—but only among men, reveals research published online in the journal Heart. Cardiovascular disease is still the most common cause of death among women, and kills more young women than breast cancer, the figures show. The researchers used the latest nationally available data (2012- 13) for each of the four UK countries and the Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2014 report compiled for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to quantify the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, and find out how it’s treated, how much it costs, and how many deaths it causes.
Cardiovascular disease includes coronary heart disease,
stroke, high blood pressure, circulatory system disease, and
other vascular/arterial disease.
The researchers analysed entries to the Clinical Practice
Research Datalink GOLD database, the world’s largest
repository of anonymised records for primary care, plus
information from the family doctor (GP) quality improvement
scheme known as QOF, and figures on episodes of inpatient
The analysis indicated that just short of 2.3 million people were
living with some form of coronary heart disease in 2012. Around
half a million were living with heart failure and a further 1.1
million were living with abnormal heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation).
England had the lowest prevalence of all cardiovascular
conditions out of the four UK countries. But there were regional
variations, with higher rates of cardiovascular disease in the
North of England than in the South of the country.
Scotland had the highest prevalence of coronary heart disease,
stroke, and peripheral vascular disease, while Wales had the
highest prevalence of high blood pressure, heart failure, and
For the first time since the middle of the
th century, cancer overtook cardiovascular disease as the
primary cause of death in 2012.
The proportion of deaths
attributable to cancer was 29% while cardiovascular disease
accounted for 28%.
But this was only true of men; cardiovascular disease still killed
more women than cancer.
Almost one in three deaths (32%) in men were caused
by cancer compared with 29% for cardiovascular disease. The
equivalent figures were 27% and 28%, respectively, for women.
Cardiovascular disease accounted for a total of nearly 42,000
premature deaths (before the age of 75) in 2012, accounting for
more than one in four premature deaths in men and around one
in five (18%) in women. But it still killed more young women
than did breast cancer.
Once again, there were wide regional variations in death rates.
There were higher rates in Scotland (347/100,000 of the
population) and the North of England (320/100,000), and lower
rates in the South of England.
The City of Glasgow topped the league table for death rates
from cardiovascular disease for all ages, including premature
The number of surgical procedures and drugs prescribed to
treat and prevent cardiovascular disease has risen substantially
over the past two decades, and in 2012-13 the NHS spent just
under £7 billion in England alone on cardiovascular disease,
the largest chunk of which was spent on hospital care.
The equivalent cost in Wales was £442.3 million, £393 million in
Northern Ireland, and more than £750 million in Scotland.
“Cardiovascular disease remains a substantial burden to the
UK, both in terms of health and economic costs,” write the
researchers, highlighting the “stark regional inequalities in the
mortality and prevalence of [cardiovascular disease].”
In a linked editorial, Dr Adam Timmis, of the NIHR
Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit at Barts Health,
London, describes the more than 40% drop in cardiovascular
disease death rates since 1960 as “among the greatest public
health triumphs in the past 50 years.” But the continuing NorthSouth
divide is a “stain on the UK’s public health record,” he
The [BHF] report provides a timely reminder that in young
women too [cardiovascular disease] kills more women than
breast cancer. Most of these deaths in young women are
caused by myocardial infarction [heart attack] which is largely
preventable through modification of risk factors,” he points out.
“And if the national effort put into the detection of
breast cancer could be matched in protecting young women
against myocardial infarction many more lives would probably
be saved,” he insists.