In 2012, the leading cause of death was Ischemic Heart Disease. In 1st world countries, what is the life expectancy for people who do not die of Ischemic Heart Disease? I'm interested in the USA, but I'm happy for you to provide information on other 1st world countries if USA data is unavailable.

My motivation for asking the question is a curiosity of how much our life expectancy would increase if IHD was abolished.

  • $\begingroup$ This will be a tough question to answer, but people tend to die from one of only a handful of age-related diseases (other deaths are either infection related, accidental, or "rare" diseases). $\endgroup$
    – Luke
    Sep 22, 2013 at 8:26
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You may want to play a little bit with this: theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2012/dec/13/… $\endgroup$
    – nico
    Sep 22, 2013 at 15:32

1 Answer 1


This paper from 1991 is intervention-based, so it reports the effects of behavior modification on lifespan in people who turned 35 in 1990. The authors report the gains for each individual behavior and then say:

Eliminating coronary heart disease mortality is estimated to extend the average life expectancy of a 35-year-old man by 3.1 years and a 35-year-old woman by 3.3 years

Which they feel is a modest increase but I rather disagree. This report estimates the that reduction in death due to heart disease of over 50% between 1950 and 1995 gained around 3.5 years, although most of that is probably due to better medical treatments. This 2004 study used 1998 data from the UK and estimated that:

The average gain in life expectancy from the elimination of cardiovascular disease risk as a cause of death was 4.0 years for all the 35 year-old men in the sample (n = 24), and 1.8 years for all the 35 year-old women in the sample (n = 32).

Although I would note the low sample size. I didn't expect to find much, so I was surprised to find these... and with similar results! One big issue is that a lot of the more recent research has focused on smoking, weight/BMI, and blood pressure reduction, rather than all IHD/CHD/CAD; I found tons of those. As a side note, simply reducing TV watching to less than two hours a day can lead to a gain of almost 1.5 years.

  • $\begingroup$ Kind of surprising only 3.5 years, what's the point, I'd rather my KFC. Do you think the small increase is because of other forms of atherosclerosis though, such as stroke? $\endgroup$
    – Kenshin
    Sep 23, 2013 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps - stroke is #2 in the 75+ crowd - but don't forget about cancer. Cancer as a whole kills more than strokes at that age, and a few forms of cancer usually come out ahead in other age groups as well. That the number is so low is more of a testament to how successful our medical system is despite the deadliness of IHD. $\endgroup$
    – Amory
    Sep 23, 2013 at 1:49

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