World Heart Day

26 September 2010

Although western countries have made great progress in lowering mortality rates for cardiovascular diseases (CVD), these rates are rising quickly in some areas of the WHO European Region, such as central Asia. CVD and related conditions, including diabetes, undermine population health and human development, particularly in low-income contexts, where the active working population is the hardest hit.

Noncommunicable diseases (including CVD, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes mellitus) account for most deaths in the Region. A broad group of disorders, they cause 86% of deaths and 77% of the disease burden in the Region, and are linked by common risk factors, underlying determinants and opportunities for intervention. Controlling the main risk factors (tobacco, an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity), can prevent deaths from these causes.
Prevention, promotion and strong health systems are needed to eliminate these risks. Action on just 7 of them – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, overweight, physical inactivity, tobacco smoking and alcohol abuse – would reduce nearly 60% of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) lost in the European Region and 45% of those in high-income European countries.
The workplace is one of the settings where these risk factors can be addressed. Employers and employees can do much to improve wellness at work through exercise, a healthy diet and smoke-free environments, including workplaces such as bars and restaurants. In addition, people should learn to recognize the signs of someone experiencing a heart attack or stroke at work, and be able to act fast.

While WHO/Europe continues to work on the determinants of health, primarily lifestyle issues, World Heart Day reminds the Region that renewed political commitment is required in some areas, and provides an opportunity to ensure that more attention is given to these determinants as a means of preventing and addressing heart problems.