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healthcare

Promoting healthy hearts

Karin KADENBACH MEP

Co-Chair, MEP Heart Group, European Parliament

‘Public policy interventions are urgently needed to tackle cardiovascular disease’

C

onsiderations on the relationship between food and health are not new. Hippocrates, the ‘Father of Medicine’, believed that illness stemmed from inadequate nutrition and bad eating habits. Yet, over 2,000 years down the line and despite the abundance of scientific evidence on the damaging effects of unhealthy food, inadequate diets have continually remained the main risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), the number one killer in the EU accounting for over three deaths per minute. In a world where obese and overweight people have outnumbered underweight individuals, and where diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia are on the rise, it appears logical that healthy eating should be a collective responsibility incorporating also a full spectrum of public policy interventions to address the very context within which individual

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choices are made. Ahead of a meeting in the European Parliament dedicated to discussing “Transforming European food and drink policies for cardiovascular health” Karin Kadenbach MEP, Co-Chair of the MEP Heart Group (1), explains why. Despite the fall in death rates observed over the past three decades, CVD (including heart disease and stroke) remains the leading cause of death in Europe, causing over 1.8 million deaths annually in the EU alone, with higher rates in Central and Eastern Europe than in the rest of Europe. The past 25 years also saw an increase in the absolute number of CVD cases, with 49 million people (9.6 percent of the total EU population) living with CVD today. This means that people are living longer but not better. (2) Disease patterns have also changed significantly in the EU. Although smoking remains a leading risk

factor for individuals, unhealthy diets are by now the biggest risk factor for CVD at a population level – responsible for 49 percent of the CVD burden, and generating an estimated annual cost of €102 billion – with growing trends of obesity (20 percent in my home country, Austria), and a steady increase in diabetes rates (in some countries by more than 50 percent) across Europe. (2) We may have reduced death from CVD, but we are still far from restraining its social and economic burden, or tackling its causes successfully. This gloomy picture calls for a collective effort addressing multiple levels from patient care, education and engagement (through healthcare professionals and patient organisations) to food systems ‘interaction’ (through dialogue with all actors along the food chain). Importantly, an overarching EU supported framework should

Government Gazette 2018: Vol 1  
Government Gazette 2018: Vol 1  
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