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Jul 11, 2019

Three Prevention Efforts Could Save 94 Million Lives Over 25 Years

Global analysis shows that improving blood pressure and diet could save millions of lives over the next few decades.

Improving diet and blood pressure could save nearly 100 million lives by 2040, based on a global analysis of three simple public health interventions to promote heart health.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this study estimated the impact of a few key prevention efforts on global mortality rates over the next 25 years. These efforts included increasing the use of blood pressure medications, reducing sodium intake and eliminating trans fats—all of which are known to reduce risk for heart disease.

For the study, researchers used global data of average blood pressure levels, sodium and trans fat intake to estimate how changes in these health markers would affect survival. Based on projections, these three efforts could delay 94.3 million deaths between 2015 and 2040.

Specifically, experts estimate that treating just 70% of individuals with high blood pressure with antihypertensive medication would delay an estimated 39.4 deaths, while reducing sodium intake by 30% would delay another 40 million deaths globally. Eliminating the use of trans fats, which are known to raise cholesterol, would delay an additional 14.8 million deaths by the year 2040.

According to authors, non-communicable diseases like heart disease are the leading global cause of death, yet less than one percent of funding goes to prevention. Most of these preventable deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, where access to quality health care and other resources are lacking. Experts explain that by devoting resources to improving the diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure, millions of lives could be saved.

In low and middle-income countries, high blood pressure affects nearly one-third of adults, yet only 29% are receiving treatment and less than 8% have their blood pressure under control. Findings suggest that by treating just 70% of individuals with high blood pressure, we could save nearly 40 million lives. By reducing salt intake, which also helps reduce blood pressure, the number of lives saved would be doubled. The effects would be even greater when eliminating the use of artery-clogging trans fats.

The take-home message, according to authors, is the importance of prevention. More resources should be devoted to simple prevention efforts like reducing blood pressure and improving diet, which reduce risk for heart disease and death. While achieving all three targets in the next 25 years is ideal, findings suggest that even implementing one—especially in low and middle-income countries—could prevent millions of premature deaths worldwide.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a heart-healthy diet?

  • A heart-healthy diet is full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy, fish and nuts as part of a balanced diet. It’s important to limit intake of added sugars, salt (sodium) and bad fats (saturated and trans fats).

  • How can I reduce my risk for hypertension?

  • There are a variety of ways to reduce risk for hypertension, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking (if you smoke), limiting sodium intake, reducing stress and maintaining a healthy weight. For those already diagnosed with hypertension, these lifestyle changes can also be effective in treating and controlling the condition, sometimes in conjunction with certain blood pressure medications.

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