The European Society of Cardiology (ESC), in collaboration with the University of Oxford, has presented staggering figures about the cost of cardiovascular diseases on European health care expenses, estimated at €282 billion (US$305 billion) from data collected and processed in 2021. The cost of general health care and long-term care alone amounts to €155 billion (US$168 billion).
The analysis is the most comprehensive since 2006 on the economic cost of the diseases in the EU, comprising patient registries and surveys. A strength of the study published in the European Heart Journal is that it includes long-term social care costs, which previous reports did not.
“This study underscores the urgent need to act collectively on a European scale to better combat the cardiovascular risk of its citizens, in particular through regulations for better cardiovascular prevention and investment in research,” explains Victor Aboyans, professor at Limoges University, France, ESC board member and author of the study.
Researchers also presented two extensive studies at ESC’s annual meeting this week, demonstrating ultra-processed foods’ high propensity to cause cardiovascular disease and stroke. The research prompted calls once again for government and industry action.
Chunk of health costs
Health care and long-term care for cardiovascular disease amounted to 11% of EU health expenditure during the examined period. Previous research published in BMC Medicine showed that increasing daily consumption of free sugars by 5% of energy intake heightened the risk of total cardiovascular disease by 7% and ischemic heart disease by 6%.
Another study found evidence to support that higher artificial sweetener intake increases cardiovascular disease risk, including heart attack and stroke.
“By choosing not to invest in cardiovascular disease, we are simply deferring the cost. These data force us to ask: do we invest in cardiovascular health today or be forced to pay more later?” Aboyans remarks.
The ESC recommends more investment in cardiovascular health to prevent further increases.
The analysis gives estimates of the societal economic costs of heart disease, such as health and social care, informal care and productivity losses. The total cost for each EU citizen came to €630 (US$682), ranging from €381 (US$412) in Cyprus to €903 (US$977) in Germany.
“Cardiovascular disease had a significant impact on the EU economy. That’s equivalent to 2% of Europe’s GDP and is significantly more than the entire budget, used to fund research, agriculture, infrastructure and energy across the union,” explains author Dr. Ramon Luengo-Fernandez of the University of Oxford.
Burden of care
The researchers’ calculations suggest that healthcare includes primary, emergency, hospital, outpatient and medications. Social care refers to long-term institutionalized care and care at home.
The main contributor was hospital care, which costs €79 billion (US$85 billion), accounting for 51% of care costs. There were significant healthcare budget variations per country. For example, Denmark spent 6% of its total budget on healthcare, while Hungary’s expenditure was 19%.
“It is evident that there is significant fragmentation among EU countries in terms of cardiovascular disease healthcare expenditures. This necessitates a re-evaluation by the EU as a whole and the 27 EU countries individually, to better address the outstanding needs and invest more effectively in supporting those suffering from cardiovascular disease,” says Panos Vardas, chief strategy officer of the European Heart Agency.
Earlier this year, Nutrition Insight spoke with experts PhytoGaia and PharmaLinea about the pros and cons of technologies targeting heart health, which increases options for personalized interventions.
Consumers are demanding more natural and sustainable options in the heart health space. Nutrition Insight spoke with Gnosis by Lesaffre, Pharmactive, Sibelius and PharmaLinea on the innovations driving developments across the industry.
One observation is that consumers can be divided into two groups: those who already have a heart condition or who are just preventing heart problems and looking for supplements to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
By Inga de Jong