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WORLD HEART DAY 2008: Knowing Your Risks Could Save Your Life

Embargo: 22 September 2008, 00.01am

World Heart Day(1), an annual worldwide event organised by the World Heart Federation(2), acts as a milestone to remind us all that cardiovascular disease (CVD) can be managed if risks are properly assessed in the first place. 

The European Society of Cardiology (ESC)(3) is taking the opportunity of this special day to reiterate its strong commitment in the field of prevention, one of its leading year- round activities. By “knowing our risks” – this year’s World Heart Day theme – and suitably managing them, we stand a chance to tackle the threatening CVD pandemic.

Besides working alongside Cardiologists, General Practioners (GPs) and health professionals involved in primary care, the ESC addresses patients in some of its activities with the launch of the Heart Failure Matters (4) website at “ESC Congress 2007”(5).

Heart Failure Matters website which is targeted at patients, caregivers, nurses, GPs and patients’ relatives provides practical information on lifestyle, drugs, devices and diagnosis. One simple way for patients to “know their risks” may be to get more familiar with the disease in just a few clicks. Login to may be the first step to no longer watching the disease from a passive distance without understanding it, but tackling it upfront.

 “28 million people in greater Europe live with heart failure, a chronic syndrome for which there is no cure” says Professor Kenneth Dickstein, Past-President the Heart Failure Association of the ESC(6). “Presented in a simple format for patients and their families to understand,Heart Failure Matters website gives tips on what causes heart failure, on the symptoms and warning signs, myths and facts surrounding the disease. “

The Heart Failure Matters website is available in English and German and will soon be in Spanish too.

Patients are also indirectly benefitting from the ESC’s range of preventive actions, which includes challenges such as addressing the remaining gap between sets of recommendations (ESC Guidelines)(7) and their actual use in everyday practice. This was put in evidence in the “EuroAspire III”(8) survey primary care results presented at “ESC Congress 2008” a few weeks ago.

The principal investigator Professor David Wood comments: “The vast majority of high risk patients in Europe are not provided with a professional lifestyle and risk factor management programme. Yet the evidence for such programmes shows that such systematic care improves lifestyle and reduces the prevalence of these risk factors”.

ESC Clinical Practice Guidelines on CVD Prevention(9) were rewritten in 2007 to put a stronger emphasis on exercise, weight, lifestyle and smoking cessation. The increased involvement of other specialties such as General Practice and Cardiovascular Nursing was instrumental. The success of these new guidelines is such that they have been endorsed by 24 National Cardiac Societies, translated into 18 local languages and published in 14 scientific journals.

The ESC and its European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation(10) support National Cardiac Societies by providing a framework that can be adapted for local implementation.

A clear “Call for Action”(11) strategy supported by 27 health organisations now offers guidance to promote a heart healthy environment in Europe.

Various actions at national level include the creation of multidisciplinary alliances to encourage the optimal implementation of guidelines and of the “European Heart Health Charter”(12). Also worth a mention: national strategies for education, health insurance, primary care and hospital as well as evaluation through specific surveillance.  

A set of implementation tools such as HeartScore®(13) and the Health Professional Toolkit(14) translates guidelines in a simple, clear and practical way. Both are adaptable to local requirements.


Through the development of these strategies, alliances with national partners and practical tools, the ESC is hoping that if GPs educate their patients further about the risks incurred, patients can manage them better - with a confrontational approach versus an elusive one.  



(1) World Heart Day
(2) World Heart Federation
(3) European Society of Cardiology . The mission of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) is to reduce the burden of Cardiovascular Disease in Europe. The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) represents nearly 55,000 cardiology professionals across Europe and the Mediterranean. The ESC comprises five Associations, five Councils, 19 Working Groups and 50 National Cardiac Societies. It also includes the distinguished community of ESC Fellows and Nurse Fellows.  The ESC provides an array of scientific and educational activities, such as the production and continuous updating of Clinical Practice Guidelines, the organisation of educational courses and initiatives, pan-European surveys on specific disease areas and the ESC Congress, the largest medical meeting in Europe. The ESC is proud to hold, in conjunction with its constituent bodies, subspecialty congresses, which are becoming increasingly popular within the profession.  The ESC also edits and publishes seven of the world's leading journals on cardiology.
(4) Heart Failure Matters
(5) ESC Congress: The ESC Congress, the largest medical meeting in Europe, is an international meeting and one of the leading events in cardiology.
(6) Heart Failure Association of the ESC
(7) ESC Clinical Practice Guidelines
(8) EuroAspire III report written at ESC Congress 2008.
(9) ESC Clinical Practice Guidelines on CVD Prevention
(10) European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation
(11) Call for Action
(12) European Heart Health Charter
(13) HeartScore®. Over 11,900 users across Europe, 10 national versions online translated into 13 languages
(14) Health Professional Toolkit

Notes to editor

This global event is held every year on the last Sunday of September and has been celebrated all around the globe annually since 2000, with a different theme each year. National cardiovascular societies, heart foundations and health organisations alike will be relaying the “Know Your Risk” message on World Heart Day through an array of initiatives to be found on the World Heart Day website.