A great deal of this represents a triumph for awareness and medical intervention - in the UK, the NHS done good! But there are some interesting side issues that should matter a lot to public health folk:
For the last 70 years we have been in the grip of a heart disease epidemic that began in the 1940s, rose to a peak in the 1970s and then began to fall. All Western countries were affected and all followed broadly the same pattern.
And two things public health people liked to finger for this epidemic - fat and smoking - seem to be less to blame than we thought. On fat:
Total fat consumption in the UK has changed little – down from 40 per cent of average calories in the 1980s to 38 per cent today (though there has been a bigger reduction in the most harmful type, saturated fat).
In 2000, a pan-European study by the World Health Organisation was unable to show a convincing link between heart disease levels and fat consumption in the 21 countries studied.
Smoking, meanwhile, makes blood more likely to clot and is a known cause of heart attacks. But smoking peaked in the 1940s and then began to decline, just as the heart disease epidemic was taking off.
The truth seems to be that those endless nannying public health campaigns are, at best, a very minor part of this change:
The Oxford researchers conclude that just under half the decline in heart attack death rates in England over the last decade is due to better hospital treatment; the rest is due to changes in lifestyle and the widespread use of pills to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Do you think BHF and the like will admit they were wrong about smoking and fat? Somehow I doubt it!