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50% of EU CVD deaths are 'avoidable'

Half of all deaths caused by cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Europe could be avoided by changes to taxation and stronger regulation of advertising.

It is claimed population level prevention produces “greater impacts” on CVD than individualised approaches, according to the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (EACPR) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Research by the EACPR published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology shows taxes on products with high sugar, salt and/or saturated fat content as well as a limitation on the level of advertising for junk food are necessary to bring down CVD levels.

Other recommendations include: the creation of more smoke-free environments, plain packaging for tobacco products, reducing alcohol intake through taxation and more encouragement to make physical exercise a daily activity.

EACPR member Professor Jørgensen said health professionals should help politicians to make the right decisions, but admitted “it's only politicians who can actually make these major structural change in society”.

“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,” said Professor Jørgensen.

“Individualised prevention also exacerabates social inequalities in health whereas structural changes aimed at the population decrease them. Structural changes influence the whole population and because levels of disease are higher in disadvantaged groups, they will benefit from bigger reductions.”

CVD leads to an estimated 4.3 million deaths each year in Europe, costing at least €190bn.