Heart Disease - facts and figures
Although the number of deaths from heart attack and stroke in Ireland has dropped in recent decades, cardiovascular disease is still the most common cause of death here, accounting for almost 40% of all deaths in 2005 alone.
This remains far ahead of the next biggest killers - cancer (28%) and diseases of the respiratory system (14%). Furthermore, Ireland's death rate from heart disease is one of the highest in Europe.
Almost 10,000 people died in 2005 as a result of cardiovascular heart disease. Half of these deaths were due to ischaemic heart disease, which is characterised by reduced blood supply to the heart. This can lead to heart attack.
Of the deaths from ischaemic heart disease, 2,839 were men and 2,225 were women. The vast majority were aged 65 and older.
Meanwhile stroke also remains a major killer and cause of disability in this country. In 2005, 2,029 people died as a result of stroke - 885 men and 1,144 women. Again, the risk of stroke increased with age, with those aged 75 and older most at risk. Although a significant number of younger people also died as a result of stroke, including 103 in the 55-64 age group and 59 people in the 45-54 age group.
However when it comes to the potentially devastating consequences of stroke, these figures do not paint the full picture. Every year, around 10,000 people are admitted to hospitals in Ireland with acute stroke. While around one in five of these will die within the first year, the remainder return to their families and communities.
There are currently over 30,000 people living with a stroke-related disability. One-fifth of these cannot walk as a result and half require assistance with daily living activities, such as washing and dressing.
On a global scale, the World Health Organisation estimates that 17 million people die every year as a result of cardiovascular disease, particularly heart attacks and stroke. This represents almost one-third of all deaths globally.
By 2020, heart disease and stroke will become the leading cause of both death and disability worldwide, with the number of fatalities projected to increase to over 20 million a year. By 2030, this number is expected to jump again to 24 million fatalities per year.
The WHO points out that the old stereotype of heart disease affecting only stressed, overweight, middle-aged men in developed countries no longer applies.
Today, it emphasises, men, women and children are at risk and 80% of the burden is in low- and middle-income countries.