HealthDay News — Despite advances in medical treatment, new research indicates that more people are dying of heart disease and stroke worldwide than did a quarter century ago mainly because the global population is growing, and growing older. The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the study, researchers led by Gregory Roth, MD, MPH, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, examined data from a 2013 global analysis of disease statistics from 188 countries. They focused on the numbers of cardiac deaths and death rates from 1990 to 2013.

In 1990, 12.3 million people died worldwide of heart disease, a category defined to include conditions such as heart attacks, stroke, rheumatic heart disease, and aortic aneurysm, among others. The number grew to 17.3 million by 2013, an increase of 40%. The study indicates that the increase is mostly due to the aging of the world’s population, although population growth is another major factor. The number of deaths only declined in Western Europe and Central Europe. The researchers found that death rates, however, by age, fell by 39% worldwide. The researchers also found that countries that gained in wealth over the last 25 years didn’t necessarily see a corresponding boost in terms of risk of death from heart disease.

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“The aging and growth of the population resulted in an increase in global cardiovascular deaths between 1990 and 2013, despite a decrease in age-specific death rates in most regions,” the authors write. “Only Central and Western Europe had gains in cardiovascular health that were sufficient to offset these demographic forces.”


  1. Roth GA et al. N Engl J Med. 2015; doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1406656.