September 15, 2017
4 min read

Ischemic heart disease leading cause of premature mortality worldwide

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While mortality rates have declined across all age groups worldwide, ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of premature mortality in all regions, apart from in low income countries where the leading cause was lower respiratory infections, according to The Global Burden of Disease Study, recently published in The Lancet.

Ischemic heart disease caused a total of 9.48 million deaths in 2016, an increase of 19% globally since 2006, according to the findings.

“Our findings indicate people are living longer and, over the past decade, we identified substantial progress in driving down death rates from some of the world’s most pernicious diseases and conditions, such as under age-5 mortality and malaria,” Christopher Murray, MD, DPhil, professor of global health at the University of Washington and institute director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said in a press release. “Yet, despite this progress, we are facing a triad of trouble holding back many nations and communities — obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders.”

The study cited a number of behavioral and environmental risk factors contributing to premature death, including poor diet, particularly those low in whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds and fish oils and high in salt, which was a factor in 18.8% of deaths; tobacco use, which caused 7.1 million deaths in 2016; high blood glucose; high BP; high BMI and high total cholesterol.

Here are some articles recently published on offering insights on those risk factors.


Healthy weight behavior influences BP later in life

Maintaining a healthy weight behavior for 25 years may reduce the risk for hypertension in young adulthood and middle age, according to new data from the CARDIA study presented at the American Heart Association Council on Hypertension, AHA Council on Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease, American Society of Hypertension Joint Scientific Sessions.


“[These] data [suggest] that body weight is very important in terms of maintaining a normal blood pressure from early and into middle adulthood,” John N. Booth III, PhD, postdoctoral fellow of the AHA’s Strategically Focused Hypertension Research Network at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a press release.

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Risk for CHD, HF, cerebrovascular disease increases in metabolically healthy obese

Patients who were metabolically healthy obese had a higher risk for CHD, HF and cerebrovascular disease compared with those who were normal weight and metabolically healthy, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“This is the largest prospective study of the association between body size phenotypes, including metabolically healthy obesity, with or without metabolic abnormalities and a range of [CV] events,” Rishi Caleyachetty, MBBS, PhD, research fellow at the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, said in a press release.

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High salt intake doubles risk for HF

High salt intake was associated with a twofold increase in the risk for HF, according to findings recently presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona.

“The heart does not like salt. High salt intake markedly increases the risk of heart failure,” Pekka Jousilahti, MD, PhD, research professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, said in a press release. “This salt-related increase in heart failure risk was independent of blood pressure. Studies in larger, pooled population cohorts are needed to make more detailed estimations of the increased heart failure risk associated with consuming salt."

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Managing CV risk evolves with new research

More research has been conducted that affects the diagnosis and treatment of patients with CVD, yet issues involving access and the need for more information on the mechanics of LDL and triglycerides remain, according to a webinar hosted by Amarin Corp.

“The proposition that we’ve conquered cardiovascular disease is, frankly, absurd, not even close,” Peter W. Toth, MD, PhD, director of preventive cardiology at CGH Medical Center in Sterling, Illinois, and professor of clinical family and community medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, said in the webinar. “We can see in the ongoing secondary prevention trials that despite patients being on an extraordinarily intensive background of known drugs that reduce event rates and then adding an agent that is being tested, that despite very intensive therapy addressing blood pressure, lipids [and] diabetes ... event rates remain relatively high.”

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AHA/ASA: Heart-healthy lifestyle also benefits brain health

A heart-healthy lifestyle can improve brain health in adults and reduce the risk for cognitive decline, including dementia, according to a presidential advisory from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association published in Stroke.

“Research summarized in the advisory convincingly demonstrates that the same risk factors that cause atherosclerosis are also major contributors to late-life cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease,” Philip B. Gorelick, MD, MPH, FAHA, executive medical director of Mercy Health Hauenstein Neurosciences in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the chair of the advisory’s writing group, said in a press release. “By following seven simple steps — Life’s Simple 7 — not only can we prevent heart attack and stroke, we may also be able to prevent cognitive impairment.”

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Smoking remains major risk for CVD despite improved prevention

Smoking remains a significant risk factor despite improvements in prevention and treatment of CVD, according to a study.

“The last 30 years have seen a proliferation of public health strategies to curb smoking yielding a significant decrease in prevalence of tobacco use in the United States,” Gordon M. Burke, MD, fellow in cardiovascular medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, and colleagues wrote. “During the same time period, CVD incidence and deaths from CVD have declined, likely stemming from advancement in both medical therapies for CVD and treatment of its risk factors. Despite this, CVD remains the leading cause of mortality.”

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High HDL levels linked to excessive mortality

Men and women with extremely high levels of HDL in their blood have an increased risk for all-cause mortality, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal.

“These results radically change the way we understand ‘good’ cholesterol,” Børge Nordestgaard, MD, from the department of clinical biochemistry at the Herlev and Gentofte Hospital, said in a press release. “Doctors like myself have been used to congratulating patients who had a very high level of HDL in their blood. But we should no longer do so, as this study shows a dramatically higher mortality rate.”

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All four Global Disease Burden reports can be viewed at