Half of Deaths Could Be Avoided with Regulation

Photo: Heart and stethoscope

Cardiovascular disease is still the
main cause of death in Europe,
leading to more than 4.3 million
deaths each year;© panther-

Up to 50 per cent of deaths from cardiovascular disease in Europe could be avoided by implementing population level changes such as taxation and regulation of advertising. Population level prevention will produce greater impacts on CVD than individualised approaches.

Cardiovascular disease is still the main cause of death in Europe, leading to more than 4.3 million deaths each year and costing at least 190 billion Euros. But 80-90 per cent of all cardiovascular disease is preventable.

Societal factors such as advertising, salt and fat content of processed foods, and agricultural policies which support unhealthy diets have created a harmful environment which induces unhealthy behaviours. Until now, efforts to prevent cardiovascular disease have focused on changing individual’s lifestyles but the impact has been minimal.

The ESC has therefore recommended a paradigm shift in CVD prevention towards a population approach. They recommend population-based interventions from local and national governments aimed at unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol.

There is increasing evidence that small changes in the whole population can have a larger impact on CVD and save more lives than lifestyle changes in individuals at high risk. Cardiovascular mortality declined rapidly in the Czech Republic and Poland after the breakup of the Soviet Union when subsidies on unhealthy animal fat were removed and subsidies on vegetables were introduced. Similarly, smoking bans rapidly reduced the number of heart attacks.

”Population interventions make the environment healthier and change happens automatically whereas with an individual approach you need an active response,” said Professor Simon Capewell.

Individualised approaches to smoking require motivating addicts to quit, whereas a smoking ban changes the environment and nudges people in the right direction. ”If you ask a minor group of the population with bad habits or unhealthy lifestyles to change them, it’s difficult because the surroundings push them in another direction,” added Professor Torben Jørgensen.

MEDICA.de; Source: European Society of Cardiology