Treating high blood pressure and cutting down on salt and trans fats could prevent nearly 100million premature deaths globally, experts have said.The three interventions could slash the numbers of people losing their lives early to cardiovascular disease (CVD) over the next 20 years.
Salt and trans fats found in processed foods such as cakes both contribute to high blood pressure, a major risk factor for CVD. Researchers estimated that treating 70 per cent of the population for blood pressure would save 39.4 million people.Reducing salt intake by 30 per cent would account for another 40million, according to the team at Harvard University, United States (U.S.).
And eliminating trans fats, found in margarine and food fried in vegetable fats, could save another 14.8 million by 2040 – a total of 94.2 million lives. Writing in the journal Circulation, the scientists claimed the measures are affordable even if they require large-scale effort to implement.
Worldwide, CVDs cause an estimated 31 per cent of deaths, and 17.9 million each year, according to estimates.CVD is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels. It is usually associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside the arteries, known as atherosclerosis.
It can also be associated with damage to arteries in organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys and eyes.The exact cause of CVD is not clear, but there are many risk factors. The main ones are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, too much alcohol, diabetes, inactivity and obesity.
It is recommended to have a balanced diet, with the addition of regular exercise, to ensure a healthy heart, including enough fruit and vegetables and low levels of salt, sugar and fat. The study used global data from multiple studies and estimates from the World Health Organization in making their calculations.
Having high blood pressure puts people at risk of CVD because it puts extra strain on the blood vessels and heart.The condition, known as hypertension, affects more than one in four adults, official statistics show.
Government guidelines recommend no more than 6g (2.4g of sodium) of salt each day, which is around one teaspoon. Consuming too much salt raises the amount of sodium in the blood, causing fluid retention inside the body which results in higher blood pressure. More than half of the deaths that the researchers estimate can be delayed, and two-thirds of deaths delayed before age 70, are among men.
Men have the highest numbers of deaths from noncommunicable diseases, which include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and diabetes, researchers found.
Regions expected to benefit most from the interventions include East Asia, the Pacific, and South Asia, as well as countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The authors said that a variety of programs and policies would be necessary to reduce premature CVD-related deaths. One important strategy would be to increase the use of blood pressure medications, many of which are safe and affordable.
The researchers, led by Dr. Goodarz Danaei, acknowledged that scaling up the three interventions would be a ‘huge challenge’. It would require countries to commit additional resources to boost health care capacity and quality. But research shows this is achievable and affordable.
“Focusing our resources on the combination of these three interventions can have a huge potential impact on cardiovascular health through 2040,” Danaei said. Danaei said: “These are realistic goals that have been shown to be attainable on smaller scales. We need the commitment to scale up the programs to achieve them globally.”