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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2005, 14:04 GMT
Fall in heart disease death rate
Heart attack
Heart disease is still a major killer
Death rates for heart disease and stroke in England and Wales have fallen, figures show.

The rate of coronary heart disease death dropped by 8% between 2003 and 2004 from 1,204 per million population to 1,104 per million.

The death rate from strokes also fell during this period by 12%, according to Office for National Statistics figures.

However, circulatory disease remains the biggest killer, responsible for 37% of all deaths.

There is still much work to be done
Professor Peter Weissberg

This is well ahead of cancer, which is responsible for 27% of deaths in England and Wales, followed by respiratory disease, responsible for 14%.

There were 512,541 deaths in England and Wales last year, a decrease of 5% from 538,254 in 2003.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, welcomed the statistics.

Continuing trend

He said death rates from circulatory disease had been falling in the UK since the 1970s.

"There is still much work to be done. Heart and circulatory disease is still the UK's biggest killer, and while the number dying from heart disease is falling, the number living with it is increasing - now around 2.6 million in the UK.

"This presents its own problem and the UK does not yet have a sophisticated enough system for caring for these patients' needs.

"We cannot be complacent, and are concerned that premature death rates from heart disease may start rising again as heart health risk factors are not improving, and in the case of obesity, are getting much worse.

"A lot needs to be done to curb our growing waistlines and we must help people to quit smoking and address the underlying social conditions that contribute to inequalities in heart disease statistics."

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