Cardiovascular diseases

Health - Cardiovascular Diseases - About The Sector

Cardiovascular or circulatory diseases, such as heart attack and stroke, were the main cause of mortality in most OECD countries in 2019, accounting for almost ono-third of all deaths. Mortality rates have declined in most OECD countries over time, but population ageing, rising obesity and diabetes rates may hamper further reductions. In 2019, heart attacks and other ischaemic heart diseases (IHDs) accounted for 11% of all deaths in OECD countries. Mortality rates were 80% higher for men than women, primarily because of a greater prevalence of risk factors among men. Among OECD countries, central and eastern European countries had the highest IHD mortality rates, particularly Lithuania with 340 deaths per 100,000 people (age‑standardised). Korea, Japan, France and the Netherlands had the lowest rates, at about one‑third of the OECD average. Stroke was the underlying cause of 7% of deaths across OECD countries in 2019. Death rates were particularly high in Latvia, at more than triple the OECD average. However, mortality rates from IHD and stroke have fallen in all OECD member and partner countries since 2000, with an average reduction of 47% and 52%, respectively.1 

Same as in all OECD countries, cardiovascular diseases remain the main cause of death in nearly all EU member states, accounting for around 1.7 million deaths or 37% of all deaths across EU countries in 2017. The morbidity and mortality related to cardiovascular diseases has major economic and human costs for Europe. The cost to the EU economy was estimated at EUR 210 billion in 2015, of which slightly more than half was due to direct health care costs, a quarter to productivity losses and a fifth to the informal care of people with cardiovascular diseases. Ischaemic heart diseases, in particular heart attacks and strokes, accounted for over half of all deaths from circulatory diseases and more than one‑fifth of all deaths in EU member states in 2017.2 

Nanotechnology provides novel solutions to the diagnosis and therapy of cardiovascular diseases. Main applications include biosensors, imaging, drug delivery and tissue engineering. However, the applications of nanotechnology in this field face various challenges in practical use. The key considerations regarding nanomedicine introduced into blood circulation are administration route, reduced complexity in formulation design, biocompatibility and pharmaceutical stability. In drug delivery applications, biocompatibility is the most important concern for inorganic nanomedicine. In tissue engineering, there are insufficient tools to measure and rebuild cardiac tissue in sufficient detail. In nanoimaging, it is feasible to achieve targeted imaging, dynamic monitoring and integration of diagnosis and therapy with high scalability, but the potential off-target effects should be noted. The differing biodegradability of nanomaterials and cargos may lead to false-positive signals. To add, some nanosensors are limited by complicated design, low stability, and high processing cost, which hinders their application in practise. Of all the concerns, toxicity and safety are the foremost issues in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.3  

The application of nanoparticles in cardiovascular diseases is still in its initial stages, but the advances of nanotechnology in other fields, such as cancer, may provide references for research in this field. There is still a long way ahead for scientists and doctors in their translation of nanomedicine into cardiovascular-related clinical practices.



OECD (2021). Health at a Glance: OECD indicators. Available at:;jsessionid=fH1JnWWBHvubYdLph8RvdvxUIKuDcxvPDpE92GoT.ip-10-240-5-166     

OECD & European Union (2020). Health at a glance: Europe 2020: State of health in the EU cycle. Available at:

Zheng, Z., Zhu, S., Lv, M., Gu, Z., & Hu, H. (2022). Harnessing nanotechnology for cardiovascular disease applications-a comprehensive review based on bibliometric analysis. Nano Today, 44, 1014532.