Millions of people die prematurely from heart disease every year despite a world without cardiovascular disease (CVD) being possible, a report has highlighted.

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) report examined data from 204 countries and territories across 21 global regions on the impact and risk factors of cardiovascular conditions.

It summarises global, national and regional burdens and trends of CVD from 1990 to 2022.

It found that global deaths due to CVD rose from 12.4 million in 1990 to 19.8 million in 2022.

According to the report, which is an update to GBD’s 2022 study, these findings indicate an “urgent need for global action to establish public health strategies, disseminate information and implement health programmes in countries around the world – especially those in hard-to-reach areas of the world”.

Some of the leading causes of CVD include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, dietary risks and air pollution.

Despite high rates of the disease across the globe, the regions with the highest rate of CVD mortality are Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Senior author of the paper, Dr Gregory A. Roth, said: “Cardiovascular diseases are a persistent challenge that lead to an enormous number of premature and preventable deaths.

“There are many inexpensive, effective treatments. We know what risk factors we need to identify and treat. There are simple healthy choices that people can make to improve their health. This atlas provides detailed information on where countries stand in their efforts to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases.”

Dr Roth is an associate professor in the Division of Cardiology and director of the Program in Cardiovascular Health Metrics at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

The research focussed on 18 cardiovascular conditions and identified 15 leading risk factors categorised into three groups:

  • Environmental: air pollution, household air pollution, lead exposure, low temperature and high temperature.
  • Metabolic: systolic blood pressure, LDL-C, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and kidney dysfunction.
  • Behavioural: dietary, smoking, second-hand smoke, alcohol use and physical activity.

Dr Valentin Fuster, an author of the paper, President of Mount Sinai Fuster Heart Hospital, physician-in-chief of The Mount Sinai Hospital and editor-in-chief of Journal of the American College of Cardiology, said: “We formed the Global Burden of Cardiovascular Diseases Collaboration three years ago to help bring state-of-the-art research to the forefront of the global cardiovascular community.

“We are excited to publish this 2023 Almanac as a dedicated issue of the Journal to inform the realities of CVD risk and inspire strategies for a heart-healthy world.”

According to results, countries in Eastern Europe accounted for the highest rate of age-standardised total CVD mortality whereas countries in Australasia accounted for the lowest rate of age-standardised total CVD mortality.

Other findings from the report included:

  • Ischemic heart disease remained the leading cause of CVD mortality worldwide.
  • The greatest contribution to attributable age-standardised CVD disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) was high systolic blood pressure.
  • Leading behavioural risk for age-standardised CVD DALYs was dietary risks and ambient particulate matter pollution was the leading environmental risk.
  • CVD mortality increased from 2015 to 2022 in 27 of the 204 countries and territories.

The research pinpointed that the highest rate of age-standardised mortality caused by high systolic blood pressure was in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Additionally, it identified the areas with the highest rates of CVD burden caused by dietary risks as Central Asia, Oceania, and parts of North Africa and the Middle East.

“Identifying sustainable ways to work with communities to take action to prevent and control modifiable risk factors for heart disease is essential for reducing the global burden of heart disease,” explained Dr George A. Mensah, Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, and director of the Center for Translation Research and Implementation Science at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

He added: “The 2023 Almanac represents an important resource for using locally relevant data to inform local-level actions for heart-healthy and thriving communities.”

The Global Burden of Cardiovascular Diseases Collaboration was launched in 2020 as a collaboration between the Journals of the American College of Cardiology, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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