Deaths from coronary artery heart disease in Ireland have halved since the mid 1980s, finds research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Almost half of the drop is attributable to lifestyle changes, especially smoking and diet, it suggests.
The research team used a combination of published data on the use and effectiveness of specific treatments for heart disease and associated risk factors, such as smoking, cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Between 1985 and 2000, deaths from coronary artery disease in Ireland fell by 47% in those aged 25 to 84, resulting in almost 3800 fewer deaths in 2000 than in 1985.
Almost 44% of the drop-off was attributable to better, and more timely, treatment, including tackling heart failure and secondary prevention.
But just under half of the figure (48%) was attributable to sharp falls in smoking, which accounted for over 25%, and in cholesterol, which accounted for 30%. Falls in high blood pressure accounted for 6%.
Smoking rates have fallen more slowly in Ireland than they have in the UK and other developed countries, but have been given a boost by a ban on workplace smoking, which came into force in 2004.
Rises in rates of obesity, diabetes, and sedentary lifestyles offset these favourable trends by around 13% or 500 deaths. And the authors suggest that if these trends continue, they threaten to overturn the substantial health gains made.
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