Brussels, 6 November 2006
Cardiovascular diseases (mainly coronary heart disease and stroke) are the main cause of illness and premature death in the European Union. This group of medical problems affects the heart and surrounding blood vessels and can take many forms, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, stroke and rheumatic heart disease, and accounts for approximately 40% of deaths in both the male and female populations. There are significant differences and inequalities in cardiovascular health between the Member States.
It is important to stress that the majority of cases are preventable through healthier lifestyles.
Reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease in Europe is therefore possible. A major step forward would be increased awareness of factors associated with cardiovascular health such as avoiding the use of tobacco, taking adequate physical exercise, choosing healthy food, and not getting overweight.
The EU aims to foster research and the exchange of information and good practice between the Member States. It strongly supports prevention, giving priority to measures aimed at improving lifestyles. In order to succeed, this should go hand in hand with the development of national policies enabling citizens to make healthier choices. The EU is therefore calling for comprehensive and broad-based national strategies. The Union recommends that each country encourage combined, strong and dedicated partnerships between health care professionals, non-governmental organisations, governments and public health authorities. A successful strategy should also involve and mobilise patients' organisations, organisations involved in raising public awareness, the media and the relevant industries (agro-food, pharmaceuticals, etc).