Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) affect the heart and surrounding blood vessels and can take many forms, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart disease and stroke. CVD are the largest cause of death in the EU and account for approximately 40% of deaths or 2 million deaths per year.
The financial burden for EU health care systems related to this group of diseases has been estimated to be just under € 110 billion (2006). This represents a cost per capita of € 223 per annum, around 10% of the total health care expenditure across the EU. Apart from that they are also one of the leading causes of long term sickness and loss to the labour market. CVD are very strongly associated with social conditions and differences in CVD rates are the biggest single causes of health inequalities both between and within the Member States.
Heart health is linked to behaviours and lifestyles. Effective prevention strategies therefore have to focus on key factors such as tobacco use, nutrition and physical activity, alcohol consumption, and psychosocial stress.
The EU aims to foster research and the exchange of information and good practice between the Member States. The main priority of the EU is to focus on health determinants and prevention, which goes hand in hand with the development of national policies. The overall objective is to enable citizens to make healthier choices in their lifestyle. Comprehensive and broad-based national strategies bring together health care professionals, non-governmental organisations, governments, public health authorities, patients’ organisations, the media and other relevant stakeholders.
In order to substantially reduce the burden of cardiovascular diseases, a European Heart Health Charter was jointly developed by the European Health Network (EHN) and the European Society of Cardiology with support from the public health programme.