A worldwide effort to lower people’s blood pressure, cut their sodium intake and eliminate trans fat from their diet could dramatically reduce premature death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) over 25 years, researchers said.
CVD is a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels. It is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK, but can largely be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle.
“Focusing our resources on the combination of these three interventions can have a huge potential impact on cardiovascular health through 2040,” said lead author Goodarz Danaei, associate professor of global health at Harvard Chan School.
The study, published in the journal Circulation, used global data from multiple studies and the World Health Organisation to make the calculations.
It estimates that scaling up treatment of high blood pressure to 70% of the world’s population could extend the lives of 39.4 million people. Blood pressure can also be lowered by eating more fruit and veg, maintaining a health weight, exercising and drinking less alcohol.
Cutting sodium intake by 30% could stave off another 40 million deaths and could also help decrease high blood pressure, the researchers said. Sodium is the main ingredient in salt. According to the NHS, adults should eat no more than 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium), which is around one teaspoon.
Meanwhile eliminating trans fat – a form of processed cooking oil used in fast food, doughnuts and some types of bread – could prevent 14.8 million early deaths. In the UK, food companies have been urged to cut down on trans fats in food products, however they aren’t banned.
The researchers acknowledged that scaling up the three interventions would be a “huge challenge”, requiring countries to commit additional resources to boost healthcare capacity and quality. But they added that previous analyses have shown that the interventions are achievable and affordable.
“These are realistic goals that have been shown to be attainable on smaller scales,” said Danaei. “We need the commitment to scale up the programs to achieve them globally.”