More than 60 million people are living with cardiovascular disease (CVD) across Europe.1 Yet, despite such a high prevalence, lack of public awareness and understanding of CVD (as highlighted by our 2021 European Survey of CVD), low health literacy and disparities in CV management and prevention strategies may be preventing at-risk individuals from receiving potentially life-saving interventions.2,3,4
Daiichi Sankyo Europe (DSE) is taking action by exploring how collaboration with experts in nutrition, physical activity and mental health, could help to advance CVD health literacy, prevention and care in Europe.
“A holistic approach to CVD prevention and care requires a multidisciplinary team of experts which also includes professionals who focus on behavioural and physiological risk factors, such as diet, exercise and mental health.” – Oliver Appelhans – Vice President Commercial Operations and Affiliate & Partner Management, Daiichi Sankyo Europe
What is health literacy and why is it important?
Health literacy is the ability of individuals to access, understand, evaluate, and use information related to health and healthcare. Improving health literacy has been shown to have a positive impact on the prevention, detection, and care of chronic diseases.5 Individuals with low health literacy may have difficulty understanding and following the recommendations of healthcare providers regarding behavioural changes, medication adherence, and symptom monitoring.5 Patients with higher health literacy are more likely to be engaged in their care, communicate effectively with healthcare providers, and make informed decisions about their treatment options.6
It is our belief that effective CVD prevention, risk management and even care needs to go beyond the general practitioners and cardiologists traditionally responsible for treating and supporting patients. Greater collaboration with health-related professionals such as dietitians, physical health trainers, and psychologists, could greatly improve CVD health literacy and ultimately have a positive impact on the lives of those at risk of and living with CVD.
A holistic approach
Health-related professionals can help at-risk individuals implement behaviour changes and manage risk factors for CVD by:
- Promoting a healthy diet – Eating a balanced diet reduces the risk of chronic conditions.7 Dietitians and nutritionists use evidence-based approaches to create personalised nutrition plans, considering lifestyle, metabolism, and cultural beliefs.8 They can also support patients after a heart attack or stroke and improve health literacy by educating people on selecting nutritious foods.9
“Practitioners specialising in different areas working together can really enrich the way people are treated and cared for. For CVD, we need a lifestyle changing approach. By making little changes in their diet, people can make positive changes to their life and health” – Lola Montes Salinero (Nutritionist and social media influencer)
- Providing motivation and expertise to be physically active – Regular exercise improves heart function and reduces the risk of heart and circulatory diseases by up to 35%.10 It also lowers blood pressure and improves some metabolic parameters.11 Physical health trainers can help raise awareness of the benefits of physical activity, and create safe exercise programs to promote long-term fitness, recovery, and lifestyle changes.12
“Everyone knows exercise is important, it’s good for the heart. But they usually don’t do it – they don’t know where to start or how to keep going” – Klara Fuchs (Sports Scientist and social media influencer)
- Helping individuals understand the impact of mental health – Mental health conditions such as anxiety are associated with risk factors for CVD.13 Psychologists can provide coping strategies and self-care practices.14 They work to develop personalised strategies to help patients reach health improvement goals and can work with physicians to help clarify diagnoses of mental health disorders to devise suitable treatment plans.14
“The way we respond to stress, the way we deal with emotions, I think has a huge impact on cardiovascular health” – Alexander Tiesenhausen (Psychologist and fitness coach)
To protect people from CVD and help those who are diagnosed with it, we need to evolve our approach beyond the treatments we provide. Daiichi Sankyo Europe understands that we must look to collaborate with, and support the work of key contributors and experts including nutritionists, physical activity professionals, and mental health experts if we are to implement real change and improve CVD outcomes in Europe. By empowering patients to take an active role in their care, healthcare providers can improve health literacy, communication, and collaboration, leading to better overall care and well-being.
Read the full report here: Cardiovascular Disease in Europe: A Collaborative Approach to Improving Health Literacy and Care