New European Heart Health Charter Launched

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Heart Health Charter

WHO and European Union join with the European Heart Network and European Society of Cardiology in launching the European Heart Health Charter.

The ceremony takes place at the European Parliament in Brussels. The Charter will be signed on behalf of 14 European professional and public health organizations that have joined in this collective effort to combat Europe's biggest killer.

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The event takes place in the presence of representatives of Member States and of national cardiac societies and heart foundations. Similar events are taking place across Europe today and in the coming months to bring together the key players for promoting heart health within countries.

The aim of the European Heart Health Charter is to substantially reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in the European Union and the WHO European Region and to reduce inequities and inequalities in disease burden within and between countries. The Charter highlights the importance of governmental action, in partnership with nongovernmental and public health organizations, to create supportive policies and environments that help people adopt healthy types of behaviour. An estimated 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes could be avoided if major risk factors were eliminated, but concerted action is needed to reduce the numbers of smokers and reverse obesity trends in countries, as well as to implement best practice in cardiovascular care.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is responsible for over half (52%) of deaths in the WHO European Region and almost a quarter (23%) of its disease burden (measured in DALYs). Heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death in all WHO European Member States, but there are widening gaps between the eastern and western parts of the Region. While CVD mortality rates have been falling in western Europe in recent decades, a rise can be seen in the more easterly parts of the Region, with an almost ten-fold difference in premature CVD mortality (deaths in people under 65 years of age) emerging between countries. CVD mortality is a major contributor to the almost 20-year difference in healthy life expectancy between the countries of the WHO European Region.

Where countries have achieved significant reductions in coronary heart disease mortality in recent decades, this can be largely explained by a decline in the major risk factors such as mean cholesterol levels, smoking prevalence and blood pressure levels. Public health policies aimed to curb the use of tobacco, promote healthy diets and increase physical activity can have a significant impact on cardiovascular health. In conjunction with this initiative on cardiovascular health, the WHO Regional Office for Europe has been advocating strong measures to control tobacco and to counteract the challenge of obesity.

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