Healthy Heart For Healthy Aging
In an era with unprecedented longevity and declining birth rates, we are approaching a future defined by more people aged over 60 than under 15 for the first time in human history - an unparalleled challenge for healthcare systems worldwide.
The cardiovascular health imperative in an aging society
In an era with unprecedented longevity and declining birth rates, we are approaching a future defined by more people aged over 60 than under 15 for the first time in human history. Organizations around the world must take action to proactively address age-related health challenges such as the rising prevalence and economic impact of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). CVDs are the number one cause of death worldwide with a massive impact on quality of life as well as public health costs. How can we invest in cardiovascular health today, to ensure a sustainable and healthier society tomorrow?
Tackling the global impact of cardiovascular disease
The economic burden of CVDs in the almost 20 years between 2011 and 2030 totals $15.6 trillion. To put this in perspective, it is by far the largest economic burden of the four most prevalent non-communicable diseases (NCDs) worldwide:1
It is not only an economic challenge, but also a very personal one: For those affected by CVDs, quality of life is negatively impacted. When affected by CVDs, both patients and their caregivers often find that they can no longer continue to live their lives as they did before. Some are forced to miss work, or drop out altogether, causing repercussions for themselves as well as for the wider economy. Timely diagnosis and effective treatments can play a major role in reducing the burden of the disease for both patients and society.
Together with the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) we examined cardiovascular health in the context of population aging to identify three key areas of action where policy change and heightened societal recognition are needed:
1. Increase awareness of CVD risk and identify opportunities for action
Meaningful policy action on CVDs must promote awareness and education among the public, patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to empower healthy choices that reduce the risk for CVDs and related health challenges.
2. Drive innovation in CVD prevention, treatment and care
Policy-makers must recognize that innovation moves primarily through incremental advances, so we must accept and reward a research paradigm aligned with this stepwise progression.
3. Enable collaboration toward improved cardiovascular health
Effectively addressing the direct and indirect impacts of CVDs will require policies and platforms that engage a wide range of actors, including government agencies, health systems, the private sector, non-profits, multilateral organizations, and advocacy groups.
Entering the “Decade for Healthy Ageing”
Recently, other multilateral and national institutions alongside health policy decision-makers, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the G20, have recognized the importance of addressing growing health and economic challenges related to population aging. WHO’s “Decade for Healthy Ageing” and the G20 “Principles on Silver Economy and Active Ageing” are just two examples that emphasize the need to reframe the global aging ecosystem. Now is the time for a cultural shift and to advance a healthy aging agenda for cardiovascular diseases. Policy-makers must continue this momentum to establish programs and forge collaborations that realize a sustainable course for healthy and active aging, whereby CVDs require urgent attention.
¹ World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health, “The Global Economic Burden of Non-communicable Diseases,” 2011.