Heart disease has long been the top cause of death in several countries around the world. But that’s beginning to change. A new study recently found that cancer has begun to top cardiovascular disease as the number one cause of death in middle-age adults.
Globally, heart disease is still the top killer of adults ages 35-70. However, this new study, published in The Lancet, discovered that cancer-related deaths are more frequent than heart disease-related deaths in many countries. These countries include Sweden, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Poland, and Turkey.
The study was led by Dr. Salim Yusuf, professor and executive director at the Population Health Research Institute at Canada’s McMaster University. It’s the first of its size to look at cause of death in five continents.
According to Yusuf, heart disease has been on the decline for a while in several countries. “It was just a matter of time that the progress we make in reducing cardiovascular disease mortality will lead to a fall in death rates from cardiovascular disease below that of cancers,” he said.
Why might deaths from heart disease be declining?
Scientists believe it could be due to the fact that both treatment and prevention have greatly improved, especially in high-income countries. Unfortunately, cancer prevention and treatment has not been as successful as of yet.
The study looked at deaths among 162,534 adults over five continents. They received their information from a research project called the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE), who had data from 2005 to 2016.
The findings did show that diseases like cardiovascular disease were the most typical cause of both illness and death among adults throughout the world. But people were more likely to die from cancer than from heart disease in high-income countries and a few upper-middle-income countries.
Is cardiovascular disease preventable?
Several researchers on this team were also part of an alternative study that looked at risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The results, published in The Lancet, showed that most forms of cardiovascular disease worldwide can be prevented.
The most important “changeable” risk factors that people should look out for include high blood pressure, lipids, and tobacco use. More obscure factors included low strength, low education level, and pollution.
Scientists note that both of these study’s certainly have limitations. For one, spanning five continents is remarkable, but it doesn’t mean they surveyed the entire world. Additional research will need to be done in order to enhance and confirm the findings of the original study.
However, both studies have given enough information to allow people to educate themselves. By learning about the risk factors for heart disease and making lifestyle changes to prevent it, many adults will lower their risk of developing and dying from the disease. Additionally, knowing that cancer is a more prevalent disease, people should take the time to learn from their doctor how best to prevent it.