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Heart Disease Worldwide: Facts & Prevalence

Developed and emerging nations face a heart disease epidemic

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There are around 550 million individuals worldwide, or 1 in 14 of us known to be suffering from cardiovascular diseases. At least that’s according to the latest report from the British Heart Foundation, published in July this year.

And although the figure is already alarming, it’s growing even higher every year. Cardiologists say the increasing number of cases is due to three main factors: our diets aren’t getting any better, we are more sedentary than ever before, and we are growing older. As a result, an additional 60 million people around the world develop cardiovascular disease each year.

Heart disease predicted to double in 40 years

Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for 19 million deaths a year – that’s 50,000 people a day or one death every 1.7 seconds. And that number is expected to increase to more than 23 million by 2030 and more than 34 million by 2060.

The statistics show that more women than men suffer from heart disease and circulation problems (290 million and 260 million, respectively). Yet more men die from it – 9.8 million in 2019 compared to 9.2 million women worldwide.

Heart disease is the biggest problem by far, affecting around 200 million people. Almost half that number are living with arterial (vascular) disease and stroke, and a further 60 million people suffer from atrial fibrillation.

A paper issued by the American College of Cardiology last year revealed that of a total of 18.5 million deaths worldwide due to cardiovascular disease, more than six million were in people aged 30 to 70. The country with the highest number of such deaths was China, and India was next, followed by Russian, America and then Indonesia.

Conversely, France, Peru and Japan have seen their cardiovascular death rates fall six-fold over the past decade.

Cardiovascular disease burden worldwide

United Kingdom

A total number of 51,979 people died from ischaemic heart diseases in the UK in 2020. A further 27,681 deaths were caused by cerebrovascular diseases (stroke, narrowing of the arteries, blot clots etc.). This is according to government figures from the Office of National Statistics.

United States

Heart disease killed 690,882 people in America in 2020. It was the leading cause of death in the country that year, with 100,000 more deaths than the second-highest killer (cancer) and more than COVID-19.

Indian Subcontinent

Ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular conditions, especially stroke, resulted in the death of 17.7 million people in India last year. It is the leading cause of death in the country, according to recent cardiology research.

In addition, cardiovascular disease tends to hit Indians when they are ten years younger than their western counterparts.


There are around four million deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases every year in China. And yet, in the 1950s, coronary artery disease was rare, with one large Shanghai hospital treating less than ten inpatients annually for myocardial infarction. In particular, the last two decades have seen rates soar – to the extent that it is now treated as an epidemic. Doctors believe this is mainly due to lifestyle changes.

In China, as in other countries, heart disease is the leading cause of death. In 2018, it was responsible for 43.8% and 46.7% of the total deaths in urban and rural areas, respectively.


With one of the highest mortality rates from cardiovascular disease, Russia is also facing something of an epidemic. Studies have shown that an individual in Russia aged 35–69 is eight times more likely to develop heart disease than an equivalent-year-old in neighbouring Norway.

Circulatory system diseases resulted in 641 deaths per 100 thousand of Russia’s population in 2020.

United Arab Emirates

A recent survey carried out by the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi revealed more than half of UAE residents had been affected by heart disease, either directly or indirectly in their families. Studies about the UAE have shown heart disease symptoms to often appear in patients a decade earlier than their counterparts in other developed nations.

Of all the participants surveyed, 46% had high blood pressure, 30% reported diabetes, and 35% were officially obese.

The good news is that heart disease isn’t necessarily fatal, and in fact, it can be prevented or controlled by medication and lifestyle changes.

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