Skip to Content

Heart Disease Is World's No. 1 Killer

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 10, 2020 -- Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide -- accounting for one-third of deaths in 2019 -- and the death toll continues to rise, a new paper says.

China had the highest number of heart disease deaths last year, followed by India, Russia, the United States and Indonesia. Heart disease death rates were lowest in France, Peru and Japan, where rates were six times lower than in 1990.

Countries need to create cost-effective public health programs to reduce heart disease risk through behavior changes, according to the report's authors, who examined 30 years of data.

Heart disease cases nearly doubled over the period — from 271 million in 1990 to 523 million in 2019, and the number of heart disease deaths rose from 12.1 million to 18.6 million. In 2019, the majority of heart disease deaths were attributed to ischemic heart disease and stroke, with a steady increase from 1990. (Ischemic heart disease is a term for heart problems caused by narrowed arteries.)

Last year, heart disease was the underlying cause of 9.6 million deaths among men and 8.9 million deaths among women globally. More than 6 million of those deaths occurred in people between 30 and 70 years of age.

The findings were published Dec. 9 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Along with being the leading cause of death, cardiovascular disease (CVD) -- especially ischemic heart disease and stroke -- is a major cause of disability and rising health care costs.

There was a significant increase in the heart disease-related years of life lost and the number of years lived with heart disease-related disability doubled to 34.4 million from 1990 to 2019, the study found.

"Global patterns of total CVD have significant implications for clinical practice and public health policy development," said lead author Dr. Gregory Roth, an associate professor of cardiology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

"Prevalent cases of total CVD are likely to increase substantially as a result of population growth and aging, especially in Northern Africa and Western Asia, Central and Southern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern and Southeastern Asia, where the share of older persons is projected to double between 2019 and 2050," he said, calling for increased attention to promoting heart health and healthy aging throughout life.

"Equally important, the time has come to implement feasible and affordable strategies for the prevention and control of CVD and to monitor results," Roth said in a journal news release.

© 2021 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: December 2020

Read this next

Diabetes Boosts Odds for Heart Trouble 10-fold in Younger Women

THURSDAY, Jan. 21, 2021 - - With rising obesity rates, more young women American women are developing type 2 diabetes, putting them at hugely increased risk for heart disease, new...

Fried Food a Big Factor in Heart Disease, Stroke

TUESDAY, Jan. 19, 2021 -- Delicious but deadly: Eating fried food is tied to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, a new study suggests. The risk rises with each...

AHA News: This Energetic 8-Year-Old Boy Was Born With a Serious Heart Defect

TUESDAY, Jan. 19, 2021 (American Heart Association News) -- The wind howled and thunder boomed as an ambulance raced Spencer Timmel and his newborn son, Charlie, to a hospital...

More News Resources

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Whatever your topic of interest, subscribe to our newsletters to get the best of in your inbox.