Case study in a developed country

Heart disease

Common causes of worldwide deathsCommon causes of worldwide deaths

Causes of heart disease

Heart disease is the major cause of death in more affluent developed countries. There are a number of causes detailed below.

Poor diet

  • Eating too many foods high in saturated fats narrows the arteries.
  • Fatty foods cause people to put on weight which increases the strain put on the heart.

Smoking

  • Nicotine - the main ingredient in cigarettes – causes an increase in both heart rate and blood pressure.
  • More oxygen is therefore needed but smoking means that smokers actually get less oxygen.

Lifestyle/stress

  • Stress increases blood pressure which puts a strain on the heart.

Genetic factors

  • Some people inherit a predisposition to developing heart disease from their parents, eg high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Lack of exercise

  • This can lead to people becoming overweight which puts a strain on the heart.
  • It can also raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Coronary heart disease

Effects of Heart Disease

Heart disease lowers the life expectancy of a country as a whole but can also vary between different regions. Glasgow has one of the highest rates of heart disease in the UK and lower life expectancy as a result.

Heart disease can also lead to an inability to work which can put a strain on support services and benefits. Health costs increase as a result and more hospital beds may be required which puts an additional burden on the NHS. Children can also inherit heart disease from their parents.

Strategies adopted to manage heart disease

Education is the most commonly used method to trying to prevent heart disease. Better treatment of the condition has also had an effect on improving the outlook of people with heart disease.

X-ray of a pacemaker
X-ray of a pacemaker

Charities such as the British Heart Foundation have helped to combat heart disease by funding research into both the causes of the disease and potential new ways to treat it. They also organise and fund campaigns to educate people. These focus on eating a better diet, giving up smoking, reducing stress levels and taking more exercise.

The National Health Service works to prevent heart disease by ensuring people get regular health check-ups to detect early signs of heart disease. They also invest in new techniques such as the use of pacemakers, heart transplants, bypasses and replacing faulty heart valves with artificial ones.

Effectiveness of strategies

There is evidence to suggest that in the majority of cases these campaigns are having a positive effect.

People are now eating a better diet and there are more regular check-ups.

  • There has been a decrease in the amount of butter and full fat milk consumed.
  • People are eating more fruit and vegetables.

Smoking levels have been reduced.

  • There is a smoking ban in public places, such as restaurants and pubs, and on public transport.
  • Smoking bans help to reduce passive smoking too.

There are more advanced treatments now available.

However, people are still not taking enough exercise and there is no evidence that stress levels are decreasing.