Latest News » New survey finds that stroke, heart disease claiming more lives today than in 1990

Despite progress made in healthy living awareness and medical science, a growing population means more people, rather than less, are dying from heart disease and stroke.

Despite progress made in healthy living awareness and medical science, a growing population means more people, rather than less, are dying from heart disease and stroke.

While greater awareness about healthy diets, the dangers of smoking and medical care advances have improved by leaps and bounds over the past 25 years, they still have not been not able to deter the number of deaths caused by heart disease or stroke. Unfortunately, just the opposite has occurred, with a new study revealing that more people die of heart disease or stroke today than in 1990.

This research, spearheaded by Dr. Gregory Roth of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, reviewed a global analysis of worldwide disease statistics conducted in 2013, focusing in particular on the number of deaths linked to heart disease or stroke that occurred between then and 1990. Dr. Roth found that the number of people killed by heart disease — used as an umbrella term for heart attack, stroke, rheumatic heart disease, aortic aneurysm and other related conditions — 25 years ago was 12.3 million around the world. That number spiked by 40 percent to a total of 17.3 million, as of the end of 2013.

What's especially disconcerting about this finding, according to Dr. Simon Capewell of the University of Liverpool in England, is that these deaths are predominantly premature, occurring before the age of 75, and that 90 percent of these "are preventable and avoidable through healthy diets and zero smoking."

The silver lining to this news, though, is that while the number of people killed by heart disease and stroke has grown, the rate of deaths has actually decreased. In fact, the death rate for heart disease and stroke across that same 23-year span dropped by 39 percent. Which raises the question: how can more people be dying of these diseases while, simultaneously, the percentage of people dying from said diseases has also fallen?

The answer, according to the researchers, can be found in the world's population boom over the past two decades. Not only are there more births, but life expectancy is longer than ever before. The more people there are to grow older, the more possibilities there are for them to succumb to heart disease and stroke. The simultaneously declining death rate means that thanks to greater awareness of healthy lifestyles and improvements in medical science, the share of the population that dies from these diseases is thankfully going down, even if the actual quantity of deceased isn't.

"Things are getting better. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., for example, but stroke moved from No. 3 to No. 4 a few years ago, and just recently dropped to No. 5," said Dr. Anthony Kim, medical director for the University of California, San Francisco Stroke Center, in an official statement. "But further gains in prevention and treatment will be necessary to reduce the absolute number of cardiovascular and stroke deaths moving forward."

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