Background: Coronary heart disease mortality rates have been decreasing in the United Kingdom since the 1970s. Our study aimed to examine how much of the decrease in England and Wales between 1981 and 2000 could be attributed to medical and surgical treatments and how much to changes in cardiovascular risk factors.
Methods and results: The IMPACT mortality model was used to combine and analyze data on uptake and effectiveness of cardiological treatments and risk factor trends in England and Wales. The main data sources were published trials and meta-analyses, official statistics, clinical audits, and national surveys. Between 1981 and 2000, coronary heart disease mortality rates in England and Wales decreased by 62% in men and 45% in women 25 to 84 years old. This resulted in 68 230 fewer deaths in 2000. Some 42% of this decrease was attributed to treatments in individuals (including 11% to secondary prevention, 13% to heart failure treatments, 8% to initial treatments of acute myocardial infarction, and 3% to hypertension treatments) and 58% to population risk factor reductions (principally smoking, 48%; blood pressure, 9.5%; and cholesterol, 9.5%). Adverse trends were seen for physical activity, obesity and diabetes.
Conclusions: More than half the coronary heart disease mortality decrease in Britain between 1981 and 2000 was attributable to reductions in major risk factors, principally smoking. This emphasizes the importance of a comprehensive strategy that promotes primary prevention, particularly for tobacco and diet, and that maximizes population coverage of effective treatments, especially for secondary prevention and heart failure. These findings may be cautiously generalizable to the United States and other developed countries.