European Parliament debates cardiovascular disease: Poor diet remains Europe’s biggest killer

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Public officials and researchers will debate today at the European Parliament in Brussels, following a damning report on the damage and cost of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in Europe, of which poor diet remains the main culprit.  

The debate will focus on statistics and findings of the report, published recently by the European Heart Network (EHN).

Despite a drop in deaths from heart disease and strokes, CVDs remain the number one cause of death in Europe, accounting for around 1.8bn deaths per year.

The public financial cost is estimated to reach €210 billion per year within the EU. Of this, healthcare costs account for around 53% (€111bn), loss in productivity for around 26% (€54bn), and 21% (€45bn) on informal care of CVD patients.

The debate is aiming to spur more integrated national action on CVD prevention.

Diet remains biggest killer

Dietary factors were found to be the greatest contributors to CVD-related deaths across all age groups and sexes.

Mairead McGuinness, co-chair of the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) Heart Group, said:

“With obesity levels rising and diabetes increasing in Europe (in some countries by more than 50%) it is unlikely that the burden of cardiovascular disease, both in terms of human suffering and economic costs, will decrease. Our focus must be on prevention of heart health problems and identifying those at risk from heart disease early on. This requires a firm focus in member states on health promotion rather than treating problems as they arise. If we could achieve this focus on prevention then there would be reduced suffering for patients and reduced costs for member states.”

Obesity levels in the UK for example are currently at 68% for men and 58% for women according to national statistics.

The cost of this burden in the UK alone – according to a Kantar study in 2016 – is around €32bn per year.

The EHN report also showed that whilst fruit and vegetable availability and consumption has largely risen throughout Europe, fat consumption has also risen by an average of 20 grams per person per day since 1998.

This trend was driven largely by a steep increase in Eastern Europe, whose fat consumption rose 22% in just ten years between 2001 and 2011.

Karin Kadenbach, co-chair of the MEP Heart Group, said: “If we want to be able to keep up the high living standard, the European Union has to put policies in place which reduce social and economic inequalities between different regions and countries in the EU and help people with chronic diseases to best manage their conditions.”

Efforts to combat foods high in fat, sugar and salt are continuing to gain momentum in the EU with increasing taxes being levied on sugary drinks and tighter restrictions being placed on product advertising.

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