According to a new report, the efforts to improve cardiovascular health appear to be working. The number of deaths from cardiovascular disease increased worldwide, but the mortality rates associated with cardiovascular disease decreased.

“Cardiovascular disease” is an umbrella term for a number of conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, especially those diseases that narrow or block blood vessels in a way that leads to heart attack, chest pain, or stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of premature death in the world.

The number of deaths from cardiovascular disease is rising more slowly than the overall growth of the population. In other words, global population is growing faster than the number of people dying from cardiovascular disease.

World population is pushing past 7 billion. As more people reach old age, the number of deaths associated with cardiovascular is rising. Worldwide, the number of deaths from cardiovascular diseases rose by 41 percent between 1990 and 2013, rising from 12.3 million deaths to 17.3 million. Meanwhile, overall death rates between various age groups dropped by 39 percent.

The change in death rates from cardiovascular disease varied according to geographic location. These death rates held steady or declined everywhere except western sub-Saharan Africa, where the death rates from cardiovascular disease increased.

Doctors, healthcare workers, and patients have made great progress in fighting cardiovascular disease but these advancements vary by location. With an increase of 97 percent between 1990 and 2013, the largest spike in total deaths associated with cardiovascular disease occurred in South Asia, including India. As with the rest of the world, the increase in cardiovascular disease-related deaths in India is the result of population growth and aging without the decrease in age-specific death rates.

The reverse is true in the Middle East, East Asia and North Africa, where a significant drop in cardiovascular death rates offsets population growth and aging. In other words, a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease makes up for a rapidly aging population.

Together as a region, The United States and Canada showed no real changes in the number of cardiovascular disease deaths because aging and population balanced out the death rates. Latin America, Australia and New Zealand had similar results.

Central Europe and Western Europe significantly reduced cardiovascular disease death rates and overall death rates. Central Europe cut cardiovascular death rates 5.2 percent between 1990 and 2013, while deaths from cardiovascular diseases fell 12.8 in Western Europe. The Asia Pacific region, including Japan, had the greatest decline of cardiovascular death rates in the world during that time.

Researchers led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington conducted the study, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in April 2015.