The report is the result of 2 years of collaborative research, representing a comprehensive review of the latest evidence on the relationships between cardiovascular health and what we eat or how active we are. It takes a close look at current European eating and physical activity patterns and proposes a series of policy actions.
The cost of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the EU is estimated at 192 billion Euros - more than the entire EU budget. 12,000 Europeans die every day due to heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases – many of these death could be avoided. The dramatic increase in the prevalence of overweight people, obesity and Type 2 diabetes are of particular concern because these problems are guaranteed to increase cardiovascular disease in the future. Within the European region and socio-economic groups, the health inequality is striking: there is a 19-year gap in life expectancy for men and 15 for women between that for the poor and the rich. The gap in healthy life expectancy is even greater across Europe – 21 years in men and 19 in women. Even within a single country there is a difference of up to 10 years in male life expectancy between the lowest and highest socio–economic groups. The situation is worst in northern regions such as Scotland and Ireland and in some Eastern European countries; however, negative trends are emerging in Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy, as more and more young people are abandoning traditional diets and changing their habits with less physical activity so already there is a rise in obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure at an alarmingly young age: one in four European children is now overweight. The report also highlights the twin factors of current food industry practices and ageing of population. At the heart of the report’s action plan are proposals for changes in the whole food, retailing and advertising business, including suggested changes to the European Common Agricultural Policy that would help farmers and industry to bring healthier, more nutritionally valuable, local foods to the table of Europe’s families.
The report proposes a tough legislative approach combined with more ambitious targets and population nutrition and physical activity goals. It presents a raft of different areas for policy action and sets out detailed recommendations for European, national and local policy makers, along with proposals for industry, health professionals and heart foundations. The list of recommendations includes fiscal incentives such as taxes and subsidies and other robust measures such as the ban of advertising of unhealthy foods, particularly to children.
EHN (2011). Diet, Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, European Heart Network, Brussels
You can download the report, as well as associated scientific reviews here.