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Top cardiologist sounds alarm over heart disease

As the Heart Foundation’s Annual Appeal gets underway in February, the charity’s Medical Director Gerry Devlin has sounded a grim warning that heart disease could be on the rise.

Devlin said latest Ministry of Health provisional figures show that 197 more people died from heart disease during 2014 compared to the previous year.

“Another report from the Ministry of Health also identifies coronary heart disease as the leading disease responsible for health loss in 2013,” Devlin says.

“Also concerning is data from the NZ Health Survey, released at the end of last year. It shows that there has been an increase in the number of people living with coronary heart disease – up from 169,000 in 2015 to 172,000 in the latest Survey.”

Devlin says there are also other potentially worrying trends in the Survey that contribute to heart disease including increases in adult obesity and rising levels of physical inactivity.

“It’s important that we don’t start moving backwards from the dramatic overall reduction in deaths achieved over the past 40 years.”

Reports from overseas studies also paint a worrying picture.


Overseas Trends

Devlin says a recent report in Australia has shown that deaths due to heart disease are also on the increase there.

“Further afield, US mortality rates are showing that Americans are now dying from heart disease at a faster rate. Researchers are pointing to growing levels of obesity and type-2 diabetes as the reason behind these concerning figures.”

The types of cardiovascular disease that Devlin and his colleagues are seeing is also changing, as New Zealanders are now living longer with heart disease.

“Whilst we still see lots of people with heart attacks and angina given that people are living longer with heart disease, we’re also seeing more people with heart failure and atrial fibrillation (AF). These conditions not only increase a person’s chances of dying from heart disease and stroke but also adversely affect quality of life.”


New Zealand figures higher

Compared to Australia and the USA, New Zealand’s heart disease death rates continue to lead both countries as well as the United Kingdom and Canada.

Devlin says New Zealand still has a lot of work to do to reduce its high number of deaths each year.

“This involves focusing on some of the key causes of cardiovascular disease which include: smoking, lack of exercise, obesity and type-2 diabetes,” he says.

“We also need to work on providing better access to treatment and uptake of medicines, plus supporting more leading-edge research into heart disease.”

New Zealanders can help to support research and specialist training for cardiologists, by donating funds to the Heart Foundation during its Annual Appeal.

The Heart Foundation is New Zealand’s leading independent funder of heart research. Since 1970, it has invested more than $57 million in research and specialist training. It also offers a wide range of activities devoted to helping support people with heart disease, plus educational programmes and campaigns that promote heart-healthy living.

Devlin says every dollar counts and urges Kiwis to give what they can afford to the cause.


People can make a donation to the Heart Foundation by calling 0800 830 100 or online.

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