Directorate General Health & Consumers
Major and chronic diseases
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a group of medical problems that affect the heart and surrounding blood vessels. It can take many forms, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, stroke, or rheumatic heart disease.
Diseases of the heart and circulatory system are the largest single cause of death in the EU, accounting for about 2 million deaths in the European Union, as well as being responsible for the largest number of premature deaths before the age of 75 years.
Council conclusionson promoting heart health
Being aware of this, the European Union adopted in March 2004 the Council Conclusions on Promoting Heart Health, calling upon the European Commission as well as the Member States to ensure that appropriate action is taken to address CVD.
Following-up to an expert conference convened in June 2005 by the Commission in order to discuss the implementation of these Council Conclusions, the Luxembourg Declaration was adopted. The Declaration established an agreement among representatives of National Ministries of Health, European and National representatives of Cardiac Societies and Heart Foundations to pursue the initiation or strengthening of comprehensive cardiovascular disease prevention plans and to ensure that effective measures, policies, and interventions would be in place in all European countries. It was also agreed to develop a consensus document, the Heart Health Charter, highlighting the main prevention principles and evidence based intervention areas.
European heart health charter
The European Heart Health Charter, developed by the European Heart Network and the European Society of Cardiology, in cooperation with the European Commission and the WHO European Regional Office, was formally launched in the European Parliament on 12 June 2007 in the presence of former European Commissioner for Health Markos Kyprianou.
Supporting this policy line, the European Commission decided to co-finance the EuroHeart: European Heart Health Strategy project, through its Public Health Programme 2003-2008 (start date April 2007, end date march 2010). This project, involving partners in 21 countries in the EU and the EEA, plans to map and analyse national policies and measures targeted to cardiovascular health promotion and cardiovascular disease while, at the same time, establishing a strong partnership between health care professionals, non-governmental organisations, governments and public health authorities.
Action on major determinants
More generally, Cardiovascular disease are being addressed at EU level mainly by action on their major determinants such as tobacco, nutrition and physical activity, alcohol, and psychosocial stress. The key activities in these areas are:
- legislation on tobacco control
- projects funded through the Public health programme
- collaborative initiatives such as the European Platform for Diet Physical Activity and Health
- strategy development in the fields of diet, physical activity, alcohol and mental health
- development of indicators and information systems