Jun 10, 2019 10:54 AM EDT
In a new research published in the journal Circulation and led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a global effort to lower individual's blood pressure, cut their sodium intake, and eliminate trans fat from their diet could dramatically reduce the incidence of premature death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) over a quarter century.
The associate professor of global health at Harvard Chan School and the lead author of the study, Goodarz Danaei, said that focusing their resources on the combination of these three interventions can have a substantial potential impact on cardiovascular health through 20140.
In making their calculations, the team used global data from multiple studies and estimates from the World Health Organization. The researchers estimated that scaling up treatment of high blood pressure to 70 percent of the world's population could extend the lives of 39.4 million people. Reducing sodium intake by 30 percent could save off another 40 million deaths, and could also help decrease high blood pressure, a significant risk factor for CVD. Also, eliminating trans fat could prevent 14.8 million early deaths.
In their projection, as the researchers discovered, more than half of all delayed deaths, and two-thirds of deaths delayed before age 70 are to be among men, who have the highest numbers of noncommunicable disease deaths globally. Regions expected to benefit most from the interventions include East Asia, the Pacific, and South Asia, as well as countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
As noted by the authors, there is a necessity for a variety of programs and policies to reduce premature CVD-related deaths. One essential strategy would be to increase the use of blood pressure medications, many of which are safe and affordable.
Also, the team acknowledged that scaling up the three interventions would be a "huge challenge" that requires countries to commit additional resources to boost health care capacity and quality. However, they added that previous analyses have shown that the interventions are achievable and affordable.
The authors also said that one instance is a Kaiser Permanente program in Northern California which increased control of hypertension to 90 percent among thousands of the health system's patients between 2001 and 2013, using strategies such as improved treatment protocols, patient-friendly services, and healthcare information systems that facilitate tracking people with hypertension. They have adapted and tested similar approaches in some low-and-middle-income countries, leading to notable improvements in hypertension treatment and control.
Danaei concluded that these are realistic goals that are attainable on smaller scales. They need the commitment to scale up the programs to achieve them globally.
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