‘No Government can ignore the rising burden of heart disease and strokes’

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Speaking at the Irish Heart Foundation Conference on Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, World Health Organisation (WHO) Expert Dr Shanthi Mendis warned that no government can ignore the rising burden of non communicable diseases (NCDs) like heart disease and stroke and stressed that each country has an unprecedented opportunity to alter its course using nine voluntary global targets.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of NCD deaths worldwide, responsible for 17.5 million deaths globally.  In Ireland, cardiovascular disease remains the number one cause of death – one in three people die from it – and it claims almost 10,000 lives here per annum. At an annual conference of healthcare professionals hosted by the Irish Heart Foundation’s Council on Cardiovascular Prevention,  supported by MSD, Dr Mendis re-emphasised the need for country action to tackle key risk factors such as insufficient physical activity, harmful use of alcohol, salt/sodium intake, tobacco use and hypertension, to halt the rise in diabetes and of obesity, and improve coverage of treatment for prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

Dr Mendis said: “If prevention is accorded a central place in national efforts to address NCD, the world will be able to alter the course of the NCD epidemic by 2025. Population-wide and individual primary prevention, cost effective health care delivery and surveillance are key components of a sustainable public health response to address NCD.

“Population-wide prevention is challenging because it requires multi-sectoral action across multiple sectors and levels of government. Individual primary prevention requires a robust primary health care system. Active participation of the civil society and the private sector is also vital for the success of NCD prevention.”

Professor Ian Graham, Chair of the Irish Heart Foundation’s Council on CVD (cardiovascular disease) Prevention and member of the European Guidelines on CVD Prevention called on Irish healthcare professionals to engage in debate as he called for a greater ‘prevention focus’ on medical school curricula.

He said: “Traditionally, healthcare professionals are seen as treating disease. But they should also have the skills to assess CVD risk and to advise people on the healthy lifestyle choices that can reduce risk and help them to avoid our leading cause of death. Despite pressure on the curricula for all healthcare professional study and training, there is an urgent need to ensure that the role of prevention is not lost. Students need to acquire the skills to intervene effectively with patients on sensitive and complex lifestyle behaviours such as overweight, diet, inactivity or high alcohol consumption.”

For more information about preventing heart disease and stroke see www.irishheart.ie

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