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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 01:52 GMT 02:52 UK
Heart death risk higher in north
Heart attack
Heart disease is a major killer
People in the north of the UK are still more likely to die from coronary heart disease than their southern counterparts, statistics show.

The British Heart Foundation's figures show the premature death rate from CHD increases the further north you go.

The highest rate is in Scotland, then in north-east and north-west England and the lowest in south-west England.

Scottish men are 67% more likely than those in the south west to die before the age of 75.

The gap is not narrowing, despite efforts made in recent years to improve public health in those areas most in need
Professor Peter Weissberg

For women the comparison is even starker. Scottish women are a massive 84% more likely to die prematurely than their counterparts in the south west.

Wales is also a hotspot, with a higher death rate than the average for England.

The figures are released in the same week that cancer statistics revealed a similar north-south divide.

Professor Peter Weissberg, BHF medical director, said: "The north-south divide in death rates has been a problem for decades and it is concerning that the gap is not narrowing, despite efforts made in recent years to improve public health in those areas most in need."

Biggest killer

The latest BHF statistics, compiled from 2003 death rates, show that the number of people dying from CHD is falling, but it remains the UK's single biggest killer, claiming nearly 114,000 lives that year.

Nearly 27,700 men died prematurely from CHD in the UK in 2003.

In the 10 years from 1994, the number of men living with CHD has increased from 6% to 7.4% of the adult population.

In women the number has increased from 4.1% to 4.5%.

There are now an estimated 2.6m people in the UK facing life with heart disease.

Professor Weissberg said it was unclear why there was such a pronounced regional variation in death rates.

"It is likely to be a combination of factors, such as lifestyle, social inequalities and healthcare provision," he said.

"The good news is that most of the risk factors are potentially modifiable, which provides hope that these inequalities can be tackled."

Figures show that smoking rates are higher in Scotland, than in Wales or England.

People in Scotland and the north of England drink more than those in the south.

And people in southern England also eat more fruit and vegetables than elsewhere in the UK.

Government response

A Department of Health spokesperson said huge progress had been made since the launch of the National Service Framework for coronary heart disease in March 2000.

"The death rate from heart disease and stroke among under 75s has fallen by 27.1%, saving an estimated 100,000 lives since 1996.

"The statistics also show that there is more work to be done to further reduce the inequality gap between the best and the worst areas, and this is already under way.

"The gap between the worst-hit areas of the country and the rest of the country has been narrowing - a 22% reduction in the absolute gap since 1996."

An additional 500m has been allocated to 88 Primary Care Trusts in areas of high deprivation with high levels of premature death from CHD.

Premature deaths from coronary heart disease, 2003
Country/region Men (per 100,000) Women (per 100,000)
Scotland 244 90
North East England 224 82
North West England 220 72
Wales 206 72
Yorks and Humber 201 66
Northern Ireland 195 65
West Midlands 195 69
East Midlands 189 64
London 189 61
East 151 47
South East 151 46
South West 146 49
England average 181 60
UK average 189 65
Source: British Heart Foundation

Heart deaths could be cut in half
10 Jan 05 |  Merseyside

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