next »Mortality and morbidity

Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death among women and men in Europe [1]. It accounts for almost half of all deaths in Europe causing over 4.35 million deaths each year in the 53 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region and more than 1.9 million deaths each year in the European Union [2]. Cardiovascular disease is also a major cause of disability and of reduced quality of life.

Yet cardiovascular disease is eminently preventable. WHO estimates that modest population-wide and simultaneous reductions in blood pressure, obesity, cholesterol and tobacco use would more than halve cardiovascular disease incidence.

While cardiovascular disease mortality, incidence and fatalities are falling in most Northern, Southern and Western European countries, they are either not falling as fast or are rising in Central and Eastern European countries.

Even though the European Union is experiencing declining rates of mortality from cardiovascular disease [1], an increasing number of men and women are now living with cardiovascular disease . This paradox relates to increasing longevity and improved survival of people suffering from cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease is killing more people than all cancers combined, with a higher percentage of women (55% of all deaths) than men (43% of all deaths) [3], and a higher mortality among men and women with a lower socio-economic position.

next »Risk Factors

The main, well known risk factors for cardiovascular disease are tobacco use and raised blood pressure and blood cholesterol, factors directly related to individual lifestyle and eating habits as well as physical activity levels. Other factors associated with cardiovascular disease include overweight and obesity, diabetes mellitus, excessive alcohol consumption and psychosocial stress.

next »Costs

Cardiovascular disease is estimated to cost the EU economy €169 billion/year. This represents a total annual cost per capita of €372. Per capita costs vary over tenfold between Member States – from less than €50 in Malta to over €600 per capita/year in Germany and the UK respectively [4].

Moreover, countries with high rates of cardiovascular disease suffer from impaired economic development. Production losses due to cardiovascular disease mortality and morbidity cost the EU over €35 billion, representing 21% of total cost of those diseases, with around two thirds of this cost due to death (€24.4 billion) and one third due to illness (€10.8 billion) among people of working age.

next »Multisectoral Cooperation and Action

High-level EU documents, particularly the Council Conclusions [5] from 2004 on promoting cardiovascular health, emphasise the importance of acting both at a population and an individual level, notably by identifying individuals at high-risk.

The European Union Council Conclusions, adopted under the Irish Presidency, called upon the European Commission as well as the Member States to ensure that appropriate action is taken to address cardiovascular disease. The Luxembourg Declaration [6], adopted under the Luxembourg Presidency, established an agreement among representatives of National Ministries of Health, European and National representatives of Cardiac Societies and Heart Foundations, present at the Luxembourg meeting, to pursue vigorously the initiation or strengthening of comprehensive cardiovascular disease prevention plans and to ensure that effective measures, policies and interventions are in place in all European countries. Several WHO resolutions and charters [7] have been adopted with a view to combat cardiovascular disease and other major non-communicable diseases.

Moreover, the purpose of protecting health and improving the quality of life in the European population by reducing the impact of cardiovascular disease is registered fully in the EU Treaty [8] and in the objectives of the EU’s Lisbon Agenda and the prospects of the integration of health in all policies expressed by the conclusions of the European Council of the 30 November 2006 under the Finnish Presidency [9].

With the support of the European Commission and the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Heart Network and the European Society of Cardiology invite concerned European and International Organisations to

  • Sign up to a European Charter on Heart Health,
  • Commit to combating early death and suffering from cardiovascular disease through prevention,
  • Act on the Valentine’s Declaration from the Winning Heart Conference of 14 February 2000:

“Every child born in the new millennium has the right to live until the age of at least 65 without suffering from avoidable cardiovascular disease”

Continue to PART I : AIM (Articles 1 - 2) ›


2733rd Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council Meeting – Luxembourg – 1 and 2 June 2006


European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics – British Heart Foundation and European Heart Network – 2005


Cardiovascular diseases in women: a statement from the policy conference of the European Society of Cardiology, European Heart Journal, March 2006


Economic burden of cardiovascular diseases in the enlarged European Union, European Heart Journal, February 2006


Council of the European Union – 9507/04 – 2586th Council Meeting – 1 and 2 June 2004


Luxembourg Declaration – 29 June 2005


EUR/RC56/R2; WHA53.17; EUR/RC52/R12; EUR/RC55/R1; EUR/RC54/R3; EUR/RC55/R6


Article 152 of the EU Treaty


2767th Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council Meeting – Brussels – 30 November and 1 December 2006


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