According to UN officials, government actions to cut salt in processed foods, as well as other measures to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, could lower the global rate of heart disease by up to 50%.
Researchers with the World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that public-education campaigns and legislation to lower the salt content of processed foods, along with individuals' own efforts to cut their blood pressure and cholesterol, could help prevent heart disease and stroke in all regions of the world.
The WHO team evaluated the cost-effectiveness of 17 measures aimed at preventing cardiovascular disease worldwide. The tactics zeroed in on controlling people's blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as high blood pressure and high cholesterol are major risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
"Non-personal" measures included media messages about the importance of blood pressure, cholesterol counts and body weight in cardiovascular disease and either government or voluntary action to reduce salt in processed foods. High sodium intake is a risk factor for high blood pressure.
"Personal" measures involved getting screened and, if necessary, treated for high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol.
The combination of personal and non-personal health interventions evaluated here could lower the global incidence of cardiovascular events by as much as 50% the report stated. The researchers stress that their findings counter the perception that preventing heart disease and stroke is primarily "the concern of the very wealthy."
Cardiovascular disease is a growing problem in developing nations, and recent developments--such as the availability of an off-patent cholesterol-lowering statin--mean that preserving heart health could become a more global concern, according to the researchers.
But they point out that the cost of combination medicines to prevent cardiovascular disease is still beyond the reach of poor nations. This is why, they add, WHO has argued for "massive injections of resources for health from richer countries that could be used to reduce the burden of disease among the poor."
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