During a Council meeting on 2 June, EU health ministers recognised that cardiovascular diseases in Europe were 'the largest cause of death of men and women in the European Union' and encouraged both Member States and the European Commission to advance treatment and encourage research, reports CORDIS.
"Unhealthy lifestyles, particularly tobacco consumption, as well as unhealthy diet and physical inactivity amongst European citizens are risk factors to be addressed in the development of national and European policy," said a European Council statement.
The declaration is a direct consequence of the various initiatives taken by the Irish government, which - at the start of its presidency of the EU - identified heart health as one of its main priorities.
The Irish minister for health and children, Micheàl Martin, who chaired the meeting of the Council said he was 'confident that decisions taken at the Council would ensure further progress is made on the important issues on which agreement was reached to provide high quality healthcare to all citizens of Europe.'
In a separate statement, the European society of cardiology (ESC) also expressed its satisfaction with the result of the Council."The Council of Ministers of the EU is to be congratulated on its vision of how to prevent heart disease. The ESC is looking forward to working further with the EU, together with our national society partners, to put into action these important messages for citizens, doctors and researchers," said Professor John Martin, chair of the ESC.
According to the World Health Organisation an estimated 16.7 million - or 29.2 per cent of total global deaths - result from the various forms of cardiovascular disease (CVD), many of which are preventable by action on the major primary risk factors: unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and smoking.
WHO affirms that more than 50 per cent of the deaths and disability from heart disease and strokes, which together kill more than 12 million people each year, can be cut by a combination of simple, cost-effective national efforts and individual actions to reduce major risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity and smoking.
And these are no longer only diseases of the developed world: some 80 per cent of all CVD deaths worldwide took place in developing, low and middle-income countries, while these countries also accounted for 86 per cent of the global CVD disease burden. It is estimated that by 2010, CVD will be the leading cause of death in developing countries.
"The rise in CVDs reflects a significant change in diet habits, physical activity levels, and tobacco consumption worldwide as a result of industrialisation, urbanisation, economic development and food market globalisation," said WHO in a statement. According to the UN-backed organisation, unhealthy dietary practices include the high consumption of saturated fats, salt and refined carbohydrates, as well as low consumption of fruit and vegetables. These risk factors tend to cluster.