Cardiovascular disease: Social and economic impacts

  

The number one killer in Europe, cardiovascular disease, is set to become an even greater burden on the already recession-hit continent's health systems. Therefore, the Commission is now trying to tackle the growing problem with different initiatives and health programmes.

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Overview

Cardiovascular disease accounts for 52% of female deaths and 42% of male deaths in the EU. Approximately four million people in Europe and 1.9 million people in the EU die of cardiovascular disease each year, according to the European Society of Cardiology. Cardiovascular disease and strokes are usually caused by high levels of bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

The European Society for Cardiology (ESC) and the European Heart Network (EHN) estimate the cost to the EU economy at over €196 billion per year, with healthcare expenditure varying from 4% in Luxembourg to 17% in Estonia, Latvia and Poland.

According to the Department of Public Health at Oxford University, out of the €196 billion, €106 billion is spent on healthcare, €44 billion (22%) on informal care, while €27 billion (14%) goes to early mortality and €19 billion is spent on absence from work or early retirement.

To reduce the number of deaths from heart diseases, EU countries agreed in November 2013 to tackle the underlying health determinants behind cardiovascular disease in the common health programme for 2014-2020 through “promoting health, preventing diseases and fostering supportive environments for healthy lifestyles”. The EU wants cost-effective promotion and prevention measures for addressing tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy dietary habits and physical activity.

EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg has also pledged to organise an EU summit on chronic diseases on 3-4 April 2014, while the commissioner for education, media, youth, multilinguism, culture and sport, Androulla Vassiliou, says the EU should promote physical activity and has called for a ‘European week of sport’ to raise awareness about combating obesity among the youth.

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