A study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal says that deaths caused by heart disease among young and middle-aged adults are increasing at an alarming rate. The study conducted by Norman Sharpe, medical director of the Heart Foundation and colleagues, shows that the death rate is very high among people born after 1951 especially in Maori and lower-socioeconomic groups.
Heart disease rates were at the top in the 1960s, but fell thereafter to about 60 percent. However, cardiovascular disease continues to account for 40 percent of all deaths in New Zealand. In the years between 1989 to 2003 hospitalizations for heart attacks doubled and patients coming to hospitals for conditions like angina increased by two-thirds. "An epidemic of obesity and diabetes is leading to a new wave of coronary heart and vascular disease in ethnically predisposed populations and relatively younger people in both developed and developing countries around the world," Dr Sharpe wrote admitting that the trend was global and not limited to New Zealand alone. "The task of turning back the oncoming wave of heart disease will require leadership as well as sustained, coordinated, and effective action across a wide range of governmental and non-governmental agencies and providers. The need is urgent." The New Zealand Medical Association deputy chairman Dr Don Simmers said that the report should serve as a wake-up call, "The major risk factors are well known - obesity, smoking and diabetes. Now we need some high-level action to combat these effectively," he said.