Category Cardiovascular Epidemiology

World Health Organisation (WHO) classify chronic diseases as the biggest killers

A new report by the WHO has shown that the chronic health problems associated with post-industrial societies have spread to the developing world. Heart disease, diabetes and cancer are now thought to cause more deaths worldwide then any other diseases combined.

The report identified that these diseases are all preventable and that the major risk factors for disease were smoking, poor diet, alcohol use and insufficient physical activity. The report goes on to predict that by 2020 even the African countries will suffer more death through chronic disease than other transmissible diseases and poverty-related issues. The report concluded that a 15% increase in mortality from chronic diseases is expected worldwide in the next decade.

This 15% increase may be observed as the developing world closes the gap on the ‘developed world’ in terms of life expectancy leading to an increased risk in people suffering chronic disease. However this increase will still provide another major hurdle to worldwide health.

The report goes on to examine the economic cost of these chronic conditions. It estimates that 100 million people are driven into poverty every year by health care costs. There is a fair amount of worry about the cost that these diseases will bring to the world economy and respective health care systems in the future.

It seems as the world has started to overcome transmissible disease a new impending health crisis is looming with increased chronic disease prevalence with an ever increasingly ageing population. This report highlights the importance of research and education to help prevention of chronic disease at the primary level. Especially the most prevalent which are cardiovascular diseases and illnesses.

The WHO Global Forum is planning a follow-up report in 2013.

Screening for cardiovascular disease by age alone?

Researchers have insinuated that predicating heart and circulatory disease events could be best done purely on the basis of age, and that all older members of the population should be offered preventative treatments.

The study published on the 4th of May by Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry suggests that predicting cardiovascular events in those over 55 is as good as using the current Framingham screening system, which involves testing for other risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease i.e. blood pressure and high cholesterol.

This study has lead to controversy with the British Heart Foundation (BHF) offering a viewpoint on the study. It is pointed out that using only age, as a predictive factor for cardiovascular disease would miss those at risk in younger age groups. These are patients who may have a family history of heart or circulatory disease and are for this reason more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease themselves.

This view is followed up with the statement that those with other risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure at the age of 40-55 could be treated to prevent heart and circulatory disease before it takes place. This would also make economic sense for the National Health Service (NHS). This point is strengthened by the lack of evidence to suggest that everyone of a certain age should be offered treatment such as statins.

Study published in the Journal PLoS ONE

Putting Cardiovascular Disease into Perspective

Heart disease or cardiovascular disease are the terms used to commonly describe diseases that involves the heart or blood vessels (arteries and veins).

These diseases commonly fall into the categories of coronary heart disease (angina and heart attack) and stroke.

Most developed countries face high and ever increasing rates of cardiovascular illness. Each year heart disease kills more Americans than even cancer.

In recent years cardiovascular disease has been increasing in women and has killed more women than breast cancer. This is an important point as there is a common misconception that heart disease only affects men, whereas in actuality it affects nearly as many women as men.

In the case of vascular disease large histological studies have determined that vascular injury accumulates from adolescence making preventative efforts from childhood necessary. By the time that heart disease is detected, the underlying cause (atherosclerosis) is often quite advanced having progressed for decades.

Therefore a huge emphasis is put on preventing atherosclerosis by modifying risk factors, which can be achieved through healthy eating, exercise and the avoidance of smoking i.e. living a healthy lifestyle.

This however does not account for all disease. As certain heart diseases are genetic and members of the population may be at a far higher risk of suffering from these cardiovascular diseases. Emphasising the need for early detection and treatment of certain cardiovascular disorders.

For more Information about preventing heart disease: BHF, WHO & patient.co.uk