A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Heart deaths dip below cancer deaths in high income nations

Cardiac Deaths Dip Below Cancer Deaths

In so-called “high-income” nations, cancer has passed cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death.

In so-called “high-income” nations, cancer has passed cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death.

“In the PURE study, cardiovascular disease remained the most common cause of mortality overall, but accounted for just 23% of deaths in the included high-income nations,” according to an article in MedPage Today. “Cancer, meanwhile, was responsible for 55% of deaths in the richer nations.”

Advancements in technology

While researchers noted that cancer deaths are also dropping compared to historical rates, death rates related to cardiovascular disease are dropping faster. Dr. Shereif Rezkalla, a Marshfield Clinic Health System cardiologist, credited advancements in research and technology for creating dramatic improvements in patients’ heart health.

“When I started as a cardiologist in the early 1980s, the mortality rate associated with a heart attack was extremely high,” he said. “Since that time we have made so many advancements, including thrombolytic therapy, which helps reduce blood clots, and the ability to manually intervene to open arteries or repair heart valves.”

New medications and decline in smoking rates

Rezkalla added that research, some of which occurred at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, helped show that lowering bad cholesterol was extremely important for heart health. Lowering bad cholesterol decreases the risk of having a dangerous heart event or developing heart disease.

Many new heart medications have evolved over the years, and smoking rates have declined significantly over the last 50 years, which Rezkalla said could help explain the drop in cardiovascular disease.

“The findings from the PURE study that indicate a large proportion of cardiovascular disease events and mortality can be attributed to a small number of modifiable risk factors are consistent with and extend the findings from several other large studies,” wrote Stephanie Read, Ph.D., of the Women’s College Research Institute, Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, and Sarah Wild, Ph.D., of the Usher Institute and University of Edinburgh, in an editorial for The Lancet.

Make sure you’re on top of your heart health. Talk with your provider today.

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