As the media hate good news, the story of the extraordinary decline in deaths from heart disease in the UK has not received as much attention as it deserves. The graph below is from the British Heart Foundation's Coronary Heart Disease Statistics 2010 edition and shows that the mortality rate is less than a third of what it was forty years ago. Since 1980, the decline has been remarkably consistent and it has even gone below the government's target (something of a rarity, as these targets tend to be arbitrary).
Talk of 'health inequalities' is very common at the NHS. The graph below shows a clear gap between different socio-economic classes, and yet it is worth noting that the richest people had a higher rate of heart disease mortality in 1995 than the poorest people in 2008. That is quite something.
How do we explain this incredible decline? The graphs below, which are from the same document, shed some light but, in my view, do not fully explain it. I post these here for my, and your, reference.
First up is smoking which saw the bulk of the decline between 1974 and 1990.
Secondly, there is fat consumption which did not really begin to fall until 1980.
The next graph is one to throw in the faces of those who lament the supposed decline of the British diet since the wholesome days of the 1950s. Per capita consumption of vegetables has changed very little since the war while fruit consumption has more than quadrupled. You have globalisation to thank for that.
The graph below shows high blood pressure. Interestingly, prevalence has changed very little since 1998 (when this graph begins) and so it does not correlate with heart disease mortality at all (nor do rates of obesity, which increased significantly between 1970 and 2000).
Then there are medical interventions. The first involves prescription medicines which have boomed in the last 15-20 years.
And then there are operations. This graph shows the number of percutaneous coronary interventions (better known as angioplasty) and heart bypass operations carried out. Both procedures are conducted far more often than they were in 1980.
Have I missed anything?
PS. Despite this decline, deaths from 'non-communicable diseases' have continued to rise, which kind of proves what I said in Spiked this week.