Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains one of Europe’s most significant health challenges, impacting approximately 60 million people in 2023 alone.1 Whilst the impact on individuals should not be overlooked, CVD also has a significant impact on the European economy. Despite being a largely preventable condition, studies evaluating healthcare costs in Europe show that an estimated €282 billion is spent each year on CVD alone, making it a significant expense for healthcare systems and societies.2,3
The economic impact of CVD reaches beyond the direct healthcare costs associated with hospitalisations, medication, and rehabilitation, and also includes the loss of productivity and economic growth seen due to disability or illness resulting from CVD.3 One of the ‘simplest’ solutions to reduce the impact of the condition on our societies, is to reduce the number of people receiving a diagnosis of CVD. Studies have demonstrated that investment in the prevention of conditions can have significant long-term benefits including reducing pressure on healthcare systems and benefiting local economies.4
A coordinated European strategy for better cardiovascular health is essential, with defined plans for implementation and accountability. There are several programmes that have already been put in place, including the first-of-its-kind event held in European parliament in 2022 by the European Alliance for Cardiovascular Health (EACH). EACH called for a new EU CV plan to demonstrate the importance of including CV health across all EU policies. To read more about the meeting, read our blog post summarising the findings from the event here: Joining forces to tackle Cardiovascular Disease in Europe.
How can policymakers contribute to improved prevention of CVD in Europe?
Reducing the number of people diagnosed with CVD requires a multifaceted approach, considering both direct and indirect risk factors and ultimately taking a holistic approach to encourage positive cardiovascular health. In the latest revision of the European Heart Health Charter, an approach termed as ‘Cardiovascular Health in all policies’ is identified to help tackle the economic impact of CVD in Europe.1 This approach calls for policymakers to assess how their decisions can influence cardiovascular health in Europe and help foster environments which promote health living, and thereby preventing/limiting the number of people being diagnosed with CVD and receiving care and treatment.1
For decision makers involved in urban planning, this could involve ensuring that residents have access to areas where physical activity can take place, such as parks or paths for walking or bicycle riding.1 Regular physical exercise is shown to reduce an individual’s risk of developing certain heart and circulatory diseases such as heart disease and stroke by as much as 35%, therefore, increasing the amount of spaces for individuals to exercise is a fantastic way to decrease the impact of CVD on society and the economy.5,6
Regulations around food and drink can significantly impact dietary habits. Championing policies which promote the consumption of more heart-healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, while limiting the marketing and availability of processed foods high in sugar, salt, or saturated fats can help enable healthier eating habits.1Studies have demonstrated that individuals who follow healthier eating patterns have a 14–21% lower risk of developing CVD when compared to those who do not adhere to healthy eating patterns.7
By addressing the impact that CVD has in Europe, significant strides can be made to help reduce the expenditure required by healthcare systems and governments, allowing funds to be reallocated to other essential areas, and enhance the quality of life for individuals. At Daiichi Sankyo, We Care for Every Heartbeat, and believe that a more proactive holistic approach centred on managing and preventing CVD can help to create a healthier, informed, and educated society for generations to come.