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Death Rates From Cardiovascular Causes Vary Widely Across Europe

Differences were found between and within countries, researcher notes

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- There are large variations between and within European countries in the rates of stroke and heart disease-related deaths, new research shows.

For example, rates of such deaths in several countries -- particularly in northern and eastern Europe -- are as much as seven to 14 times higher than in other countries. And a number of countries, including Germany, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, even have large regional variations in these death rates. The report is published in the Feb. 6 issue of the European Heart Journal.

Researchers analyzed data on deaths from ischemic heart disease (IHD) and cerebrovascular disease (CVD) among people aged 45 to 74 in the year 2000. IHD is a form of heart disease characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart, while CVD involves potential stroke-causing defects in the blood vessels that supply the brain.

Overall, death rates for IHD were lower in countries in southern and western Europe, while CVD death rates were lower in the center of western Europe, with higher rates in surrounding countries, such as Greece, Portugal, and regions in southern Italy and Spain.

"In Latvia, there was a more than sevenfold higher rate of IHD mortality among men than in France, and there was a nearly 10-fold higher rate for women in Estonia than in France. For CVD, there was a 14.5-fold higher rate for men and a 12-fold higher rate for women in Estonia than in Switzerland," study author Dr. Jacqueline Muller-Nordhorn, a senior scientist at the Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics at Charite University Medical Center in Berlin, said in a prepared statement.

"With regard to IHD, there is a clear north-east to south-west gradient in mortality. In particular, countries from central and eastern Europe have high mortality rates compared with other European countries. The lowest mortality rates are found in France, Portugal, Italy and Spain. There is considerable within-country variation in IHD in Germany, the U.K. and Poland," she said.

"With regard to CVD, there is a different pattern of regional variation compared with IHD. CVD mortality is reduced in the center of western Europe with the lowest national mortality rates in Switzerland, France, Norway and Spain. There is considerable within-country variation in Italy, Spain, Portugal and the U.K."

Muller-Nordhorn noted that IHD and CVD death rates have steadily decreased in most western European countries over the past decades.

"These latest figures show a changing pattern of cardiovascular mortality within Europe, which needs to be taken into account in the definition of countries as high- or low-risk when primary prevention strategies are being designed for heart disease. In addition, there needs to be further research into the underlying reasons for the observed differences in cardiovascular mortality in Europe, both between and within countries. Preventive strategies could then focus on specific risk factors," she said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about heart disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, Feb. 5, 2008

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