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Understanding the burden of CVD. Facts and figures


Evidence and data collected during the pandemic outbreak show that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on patients with cardiovascular disease which will last well beyond the pandemic.

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the burden of CVD was greater than that of any other disease and the leading cause of death in Europe and the world. The repercussions of the pandemic on CVD mortality and morbidity risk being exponential unless bold policy action is taken. 

Read our statement on “the collateral damage of COVID-19: cardiovascular disease, the next pandemic wave” which provides recommendations for mitigating actions to save lives and reduce suffering for cardiovascular patients.

The statement builds on two surveys that the ESC has conducted with its members which gave a detailed picture of how COVID-19 has impacted cardiovascular care and provided a wealth of data and evidence on the interlink between COVID-19 and heart health.

To read more about ESC activities and the latest science on COVID-19 and heart disease, please consult the dedicated ESC web page: COVID-19 and Cardiology

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) needs to cover data on CVD

The ESC responded to a consultation on the extension of the mandate of the European Centre of Diseases Prevention (ECDC) to address health threats. Whilst welcoming the measures proposed, the ESC strongly advocated for extending the ECDC mandate to cover data on cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and other communicable diseases.


In the past 50 years, the development and implementation of better treatments, combined with improvements in clinical settings and preventative strategies have resulted in a significant reduction in CVD mortality. Despite these huge advances in cardiovascular medicine, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains a major social and economic challenge in Europe:

  • CVD is still the leading cause of death, accounting for 47% and 39% of all deaths in females and males respectively
  • CVD is closely linked to health inequalities, with more CVD-related deaths in females than males, and in middle-income compared with high-income countries. The most pronounced declines in coronary mortality have been in countries with the most advanced contemporary care
  • The success in reducing CVD mortality has led to increasing numbers of people living with chronic cardiovascular conditions including heart failure and vascular dementia
  • With the ageing population, CVD prevalence is expected to increase further and to co-exist with other diseases leading to multi-morbidity – a further challenge for patient management
  • Major risk factors for CVD including obesity, diabetes and elevated blood pressure (hypertension) are becoming more prevalent
  • Advances in oncological treatment have led to improved cancer survival but have also increased CVD morbidity and mortality due to the cardiotoxicity of cancer treatment.
  • In addition to the loss of, and impact on, human lives, the economic burden of CVD in EU countries exceeds a total of €210 billion and is expected to increase further in the coming decades.

To improve understanding of the burden of CVD, the ESC collects cardiovascular data from across its 57 members countries through its 'Atlas of Cardiology'. The ESC Atlas of Cardiology provides figures illustrating the current impact of cardiovascular disease on our population and data on risk factors and their geographic distribution.

To demonstrate the need for policy action, ESC Advocacy uses ESC Atlas of Cardiology data to produce the “ESC Cardiovascular Realities 2020” publication and a series of accompanying infographics, revealing wide geographic disparities and social inequalities. ESC Advocacy will continue to use Atlas data to raise the profile of cardiovascular health on the EU policy agenda. 

Cardiovascular Disease in Women

Cardiovascular disease is often thought to be more of a male problem. However, it is the leading cause of death in women worldwide. Because symptoms of cardiovascular disease in women can differ from those in men, we are confronted with gender disparities, with CVD in women being understudied, underdiagnosed, and undertreated. It is necessary to:

  • raise the awareness of policymakers to the massive burden of CVD in women
  • have more women enrolled in clinical trials
  • mobilise more research funding to better understand CVD in women

Read how ESC is committed to supporting women with the cardiovascular disease here.