Deaths from heart attacks and strokes could rise as the obesity epidemic takes it toll, experts have warned.
Ireland has some of the highest levels of obesity in Europe, a study has found.
A paper examining cardiovascular disease across European states warned that declines in cardiovascular death over the last 50 years are being “threatened”.
The study, published in the European Heart Journal, saw experts examine cardiovascular disease across member countries of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), as well as some other countries.
It found that male obesity was most common in the Czech Republic, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Britain, where it affects more than one in four men. Female obesity was most common in Turkey, where it affected one in three women.
Ireland and Britain both had the fifth highest prevalence of raised blood cholesterol.
Across the 47 countries, an average of 16.3% of people had raised cholesterol, but in Ireland and Britain, the figure was 21.7%.
Ireland was also among the top six countries with more than 30% of men and more than 40% of women not getting enough physical exercise.
Ireland was also among the ESC countries with the highest-binge drinking rates.
Rates of more than 50% were recorded for men in Ireland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland and Lituania. They tended to be high among women in the same countries and exceeded 20% for women in Austria and Lithuania.
However, Ireland is in the mid-range for the prevalence of diabetes, with 5.4% of the population aged 20 to 79 affected.
The Republic of Moldova had the lowest prevalence of diabetes at 2.5% of the population, while Egypt had the highest at 16.6%.
The authors warn that “downward mortality trends for cardiovascular disease may be threatened by the emerging obesity epidemic”.
Across all member ESC states, rates of diabetes are increasing.
The report shows that the incidence of cardiovascular disease continues to increase across nearly all European countries, despite declines in cardiovascular mortality.
Deaths due to cardiovascular disease in Europe are higher in women (2.1m) than in men (1.7m).
Cardiovascular disease also accounts for a more significant proportion of all deaths in women (49%), compared with men (40%). However, fewer women than men died prematurely (under 70 years) from cardiovascular disease.
Among people under 65 years of age, cardiovascular disease remains the most common cause of premature death among men. In women it is cancer.
Lead author Adam Timmis, professor of clinical cardiology at the Queen Mary University of London, said heart disease remained the leading cause of death for middle-income countries, while declines in high-income nations meant cancer deaths have now become more common there.
“But this downward trend for high-income countries is being threatened by the emerging obesity epidemic that is seeing rates of diabetes increase almost everywhere,” said Dr Timmis.
The Irish Heart Foundation’s health promotion manager, Janis Morrissey, said there had been significant reductions in the rates of heart disease over some decades, but this would not continue given the rates of overweight, obesity, and diabetes.
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