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Lifesaving effect of lifestyle improvements

Comment by Maja-Lisa Løchen, EACPR Prevention, Epidemiology and Population Science Section

Exploring potential mortality reductions in 9 European countries by improving diet and lifestyle: A modelling approach.

O’Flaherty et al. on behalf of the Euroheart II Steering Group.

International Journal of Cardiology 207 (2016) 286–291


The European EuroHeart ll project has recently published this important model showing how just modest and indeed feasible, but politically challenging, structural reductions in life style risk factors would cause large decline in future coronary heart disease (CHD) deaths across Europe (from 2010 to 2020) in the age groups 25-74 years.

The author group provided data from nine countries using a validated model comparing three scenarios and their predicted impact on CHD mortality. The scenarios were conservative, intermediate and optimistic. The scenarios were:

  • for smoking prevalence absolute decreases of 5%, 10% and 15%
  • for saturated fat intake 1%, 2%, 3% absolute decreases in % energy intake, replaced by unsaturated fat
  • for salt the relative increases were 10%, 20% and 30%
  • for physical inactivity the absolute decreases 5%, 10% and 15%

Under the conservative scenario, they estimated 10.8% less CHD deaths, compared to 29.1% fewer deaths for the optimistic scenario. The highest gain would come from dietary improvements followed by decreases in smoking and inactivity.

The potential public impact of this study is substantial. The authors underline that these improvements in behavior risk factors may not be achieved through education, individual approach, guidelines, campaigns and high risk patient treatment alone. The population approach through structural regulations and policies would be the most cost-effective and powerful.  

The content of this article reflects the personal opinion of the author/s and is not necessarily the official position of the European Society of Cardiology