Although in today’s society progress has been made in the control of some risk factors, such as smoking, hyperlipidemia and hypertension; other risk factors such as overweight, obesity and diabetes are still increasing in alarming proportions.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) affecting the heart and circulatory system, is the cause of nearly half of all deaths in Europe (48%) and in the EU (42%), with 4.3 million deaths in Europe and over 2.0 million deaths in the EU(1). CVD is the main cause of death amongst women in all European countries, and the main cause of death in all countries except France, the Netherlands and Spain (1). CVD causes 18% of deaths in France amongst men before the age of 75, and 16% of deaths in women before the same age (1).
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the single most common cause of death in the EU, however mortality rates are falling steadily in Western, Northern and Southern European countries, where diets are generally improving. The situation in some Central and Eastern European countries is very different, with CHD rates rising dramatically (1).
Although mortality in patients hospitalised for an acute myocardial infarction has considerably decreased, many patients with a heart attack die from sudden cardiac death before reaching the hospital. Sudden cardiac death often occurs in individuals without any previously known cardiac condition, due to a clot forming on an atherosclerotic plaque in the vessels supplying the heart (coronary arteries).
This emphasises the need for preventative measures which include refraining from smoking, regular physical exercise, a diet which is high in complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables and low in fat, salt and free sugars, and recognition and treatment of specific risk factors such as hyperlipidemia, hypertension or diabetes.
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1) European cardiovascular disease statistics, 2008 edition, European Heart Network.
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