Cardiovascular diseases are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels, and include diseases of the heart, vascular diseases of the brain and diseases of blood vessels. EU launched policies to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
Cardiovascular diseases constitute a vast group of disorders. Many of them are related to a process called atherosclerosis and include:
- Coronary heart disease – disease of the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle;
- Cerebrovascular disease – disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain;
- Peripheral arterial disease – disease of blood vessels supplying the arms and legs.
Other cardiovascular diseases, which are not always related to atherosclerosis include rheumatic heart disease (damage to the heart muscle and heart valves from rheumatic fever, caused by streptococcal bacteria), congenital heart disease (malformations of heart structure existing at birth), cardiomyopathies and cardiac arrythmias (See the World Health Organisation: WHO 2011 and WHO 2021).
Cardiovascular diseases prevention
Cardiovascular diseases can be attributed to multiple risk factors. These risk factors can be divided in non-modifiable and modifiable (in that they can be prevented).
A. Non-modifiable risk factors
The main non-modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease are advanced age, family history of cardiovascular disease, gender and race
B. Modifiable risk factors
The majority of cardiovascular disease is preventable through the management of modifiable risk factors the most important of which are as smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, psychosocial factors such as low socioeconomic status, mental ill health, and psychosocial stress such as life stress, social isolation and anxiety; and environmental factors such as air pollution. A number of national and international institutions have examined the role of modifiable risk factors in the development of cardiovascular disease. See, for instance, EFSA 2019 and other sources here.
Consequences of cardivoascular diseases
The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2019 study estimated that cardiovascular diseases represent the leading cause of disability and premature death at global and EU level. In the EU in 2019, almost 2 million deaths and more than 29 million DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years) were attributed to cardiovascular diseases.
In addition, the GBD 2019 study reports that almost 5% of deaths and 3.6% of DALYs attributed to CVDs were due to low physical activity; 11.6% of deaths and 17.7% of DALYs due to smoking; 17.5 % of deaths and 22.4 % of DALYS due to high body mass index, 33.6% of deaths and 35% of DALYs due to suboptimal diet and 3% of deaths and 4% of DALYs due to alcohol use.
The total cost of CVD in the EU was estimated at €210 billion in 2015, including €111 billion in health care costs, €45 billion in providing informal care, and €54 billion in productivity losses (see the EHN 2017 edition on the side).
EU prevention Policy
The EU continuously issues recommendations to member countries to prepare information plans for medical personnel and citizens on prevention actions.
EU has taken measures to limit the use of tobacco.
Measures have also been adopted to reduce the environmental impact on health and achieve levels of air quality that do not result in risks to human health (see the Directive 2008/50/EC and European Commission Clean Air Policy Package). The “Clean Air Policy Package for Europe” aims to achieve full compliance with existing air quality legislation by 2020 and further improve Europe’s air quality by 2030 and thereafter.
WHO is also continuously providing data and making recommendations to policy makers. Most EU countries have action plans and policies in place to address cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors.
Summaries of policy recommendations addressing factors related to the risk of cardiovascular disease are listed in the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Knowledge Gateway.
Check the the latest info into the Gateway.