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September 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 6)

Epidemic of heart disease is biggest killer in China
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Epidemic of heart disease is biggest killer in China image

Heart disease and stroke isn’t only a disease of the West—the problem is now an epidemic in China, and its prevalence is similar to that in the USA. It affected just 7 per cent of the population 20 years ago, but today one in three adult Chinese suffers from the disease.

An unhealthy diet and an increase in obesity levels have all been blamed for the sudden rise in heart disease, which has become the biggest killer in China. By comparison, cancer has now overtaken heart disease as the major killer in 12 European countries, including the UK, France, Italy and Spain.

The same can’t be said for countries in Eastern Europe, where the death rate from heart disease, or cardiovascular disease (CVD), is as high as ever, and poses more of a threat than cancer.

Researchers at Harvard T H Chan school of public health have analysed the worrying trend in China from 1991 to 2011, and believe the increase is caused by a more Westernised diet, and stress and lifestyle changes following mass urbanization and industrialisation. These social upheavals have caused all the usual indicators of CVD, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The rate of CVD—which is already on a par with that of the US—is set to rise further over the next 20 years, they estimate.

CVD may still be a problem in Western Europe, but it’s no longer the major killer. That dubious honour has passed to cancer in the 12 countries of Western Europe monitored by researchers at Oxford University.

France was the first to report cancer as the major killer in 2011, but since then it has been joined by 11 Western European countries.


(Sources: China study: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2016; 68: 818; Western Europe study: European Heart Journal, 2016; ehw334)

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