Cardiovascular Disease: Would you be aware of all the risk factors?
As Europe’s leading cause of mortality, it is important that individuals are able to recognise both the risk factors and symptoms most commonly associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD).1 However, as we have seen previously from our deep dive into the results of our European Survey of Cardiovascular Disease, awareness is relatively low.2
Many of the risk factors associated with CVD are behavioural. Unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking and harmful use of alcohol are all such examples of risk factors, and as such can be addressed through lifestyle alterations.2 However, only ~50% of our survey respondents recognised these, instead commenting high blood pressure and high cholesterol as risk factors.2 Whilst these are indeed key risk factors for CVD, and we will discuss these later on, it is important to recognise that these often are a result of the previously mentioned behavioural risk factors and addressing these can have a significant impact on overall CVD risk.
As previously mentioned, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are two of the biggest risk factors when it comes to CVD. Whilst awareness of these is relatively high across Europe (around 70%), the variance across individual countries is considerable: less than 50% in Germany identified high cholesterol as a risk factor and in Spain only 63% recognised high blood pressure.2 Whilst these two risk factors were recognised as risk factors, knowledge of personal levels is low, with just 43.6% of all respondents aware of both their cholesterol levels and blood pressure.2 This was lowest in the UK at just 28.9% and highest in Spain at 60.3%.2
With the World Health Organization (WHO) publishing findings showing that 80% of premature heart disease and stokes are preventable, our survey has clearly identified the need for greater education on the risk factors associated with CVD, as well as monitoring of them.3
As well as CVD risk factors, there is need for improvement around symptom recognition. A lack of symptom awareness has resulted in 80% of individuals being diagnosed in hospital, despite 40% of those individuals having experienced symptoms that should have triggered them to seek earlier assessment.4 Our survey findings uncovered a lack of understanding around the main symptoms associated with heart disease. Whilst those aged 55+ were better at recognising these, overall only 3 of the 8 main symptoms (chest tightness, heart palpitations, and difficulty breathing) were recognised by 50% or more of respondents.2
At Daiichi Sankyo Europe, we believe it is our responsibility to look at CVD care more holistically, beyond just the medicines we provide. Our focus on prevention is paramount and we understand this means trying to make sure we protect as many people as possible from a CVD diagnosis. To help drive prevention, we’ve identified a number of priorities:
- Population-wide education of all the main risk factors that contribute to the risk of developing CVD as well as common symptoms
- Sign-posting to relevant information, based on age and country-specific preferences, is needed to improve awareness of symptoms
- Public health education regarding the implications of delayed, or lack of, action to help ensure patients are diagnosed sooner, optimising their treatment success
- Improving awareness of possible lifestyle interventions to prevent CVD
To read more about the key findings and takeaways from the European Survey of Cardiovascular Disease, view the full report here.