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Efficient strategies needed to detect high risk individuals for cardiovascular disease

18 Jan 2021

Having reviewed latest evidence from scientific studies and high-quality, randomised controlled trials, the European Heart Network (EHN) published its revised paper on ‘Early detection of cardiovascular disease’

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the main cause of death in Europe and in the world. In the EU alone, more than 1.8 million people die every year as a result of CVD, with a large proportion of deaths being premature (before the age of 65).

The pandemic has worsened the CVD burden. Early evidence points to a heightened risk of poor COVID-19 outcomes and death associated with pre-existing CVD and CVD risk factors. There is an urgent need to effectively address CVD and reduce the health and economic burden of disease in Europe.

The EHN paper ‘Early detection of cardiovascular disease’, published today, offers an overview of strategies to detect risk of cardiovascular disease. It also builds on evidence gathered by experts as part of the WHO’s initiative on screening, published also today in the WHO Health Evidence Network (HEN) report ‘What is the effectiveness of systematic population level screening programmes for reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease?’, which synthesizes several high-quality, randomised controlled trials.

Key messages include:

  • There is potential value of case-finding within clinical practice, which involves assessing individuals that may be at risk of CVD when they use the healthcare system.
  • Evidence-based, targeted case-finding in selected settings and to specific population groups known to be at high risk are more likely to be effective for reducing CVD.
  • Digital technologies and Big Data could potentially transform early detection, for example by stratifying the population into risk groups using data from electronic health records or by self-monitoring, but further research and scientific validation of such technologies is needed.

Reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease remains important in the WHO-Europe region and must also be a priority for the EU and Member States to meet their commitments on international frameworks, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the WHO Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, which recommends to improve prevention, early detection, treatment and sustained management of people with or at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Birgit Beger, EHN Chief Executive says “Improving cardiovascular health is crucial for making our healthcare systems more resilient. EHN calls for a European wide joint action and/or network of Member States, supported by experts, to identify the most effective policies, measures, and programmes for reaching out to and managing high risk individuals for cardiovascular disease and to detect those with specific, highly treatable cardiovascular conditions.”

Jill Farrington, Regional Medical Officer, CVD and Diabetes for the WHO Regional Office of Europe says “Cardiovascular diseases account for about 50% of all deaths in the WHO European Region, yet most of these cases are preventable. Effective CVD prevention policies can have a huge influence on the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people across the Region of 53 countries and beyond. WHO-Europe’s new HEN report gives valuable information on population-based screening programmes for CVD risk factors and preclinical conditions and supports policymakers in making effective use of resources”.

Click here for the EHN paper.

Click here for the WHO evidence report.