World Heart Day targets salt consumption, risk reduction

heartToday is World Heart Day – when the World Heart Federation and the World Health Organization highlight global efforts to raise awareness about the epidemic of cardiovascular diseases. The goal is to reduce cardiovascular-related mortality by a third over the next 15 years.

According to the WHO, more than 17 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2008, representing 30 percent of all deaths worldwide. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.3 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.2 million were due to stroke. More than 80 percent of these deaths take place in low and middle-income countries. The WHO believes the number of cardiovascular disease deaths, mainly from heart disease and stroke, will increase to more than 23 million by 2030.

The CDC estimates that about 600,000 people die from CVD annually in the United States. It is the leading cause of death for people of most ethnicities in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, and whites. About half (42.2 million) of the estimated 83.6 million people in the U.S. with some type of heart disease are age 60 or older, and two-thirds (66 percent) of CVD-related deaths occur in people age 75 or older.

These American Heart Association fact sheets break down CVD incidence and mortality by populations. This World Heart Federation’s map details the global incidence of CVD by type.

The WHO and the WHF are organizing awareness events in more than 100 countries – including health checks, organized walks, runs and fitness sessions, public talks, stage shows, scientific forums, exhibitions, concerts, carnivals and sports tournaments. This year’s efforts focus on reducing salt consumption, which increases risk of hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

William Zoghbi, M.D., director of cardiovascular imaging at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center and chair of the WHF Global Task Force for cardiovascular disease, said countries must work on agriculture, transportation, environmental and fiscal policies as well as international trade agreements that will have a strong impact on a person’s diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use.

“We need to help impress upon people lifestyle changes that will help reduce risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking” Zoghbi said in a statement. “More importantly we need to hammer home the importance of screening for heart disease. Many people go to the doctor when it’s too late. Our goal is to make sure people have the tools to prevent heart disease and I believe we can make that happen.”

Note to reporters:

The National Institutes on Aging compiled a comprehensive report in 2011 on global health and aging – it provides an excellent overview of the problems and challenges nations face as the world population ages. Check the World Health Organization or World Heart Federation for the most recent statistics on CVD and other noncommunicable diseases.

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