September 19, 2011 (New York, New York) — Cardiovascular disease is the number-one killer worldwide, with more than 80% of deaths from CVD in low- and middle-income countries, and this, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Heart Federation (WHF) and the World Stroke Organization (WSO), is having a dire economic effect on these nations [1]. A key message is that deaths from CVD are more likely to occur prematurely in developing nations than in richer countries, the report, known as the "Global Atlas on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Control," reveals.

"So many people still think of heart disease and stroke as a rich person's disease, but it is the number-one killer in virtually every country in the world. It's a sad fact--it's an area where you don't want to be number one, but that's where we are. The burden of disease is huge, and it's not going away," chief science officer for the World Heart Federation, Dr Kathryn Taubert, told heartwire .

CVD is the number-one killer in virtually every country in the world. It's a sad fact--it's an area where you don't want to be number one.

The 164-page report is being handed out in New York during the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), taking place today and tomorrow, presided over by UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and attended by high-level dignitaries from around the world, including a number of presidents, the US surgeon general, and US secretary for health and human services. The president of the WHF and the director general of the WHO will be speaking at the summit and referring to statistics from the new report, says Taubert.

The "bottom-line" figures are that CVD caused more than 17 million deaths worldwide in 2008, including three million deaths among those under the age of 60, the majority of which were in poorer nations. "The deaths are more premature in the low- and middle-income countries, to the point where there are still children in the house. Plus, you've got rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease, which is almost solely in low- and middle-income countries," Taubert notes.

Premature Deaths Affect Economies; Politicians Take Note

She explains that the new report was commissioned so that relevant and up-to-date statistics would be available for this NCD summit--the last global stats on CVD came out seven years ago. "We want governments and health departments and so forth to have a source of data and to focus on what the cardiovascular risk factors are, especially those that are totally modifiable, like smoking," she says.

"We want people to realize what a problem this is and how it's going to affect the economies of these emerging countries. They can't just dig themselves out from infectious disease to all sit there and have heart attacks. We would like something measurable to come out of this, where it will free up aid money to help these countries to fight this epidemic."

We want people to realize what a problem this is and how it's going to affect the economies of these emerging countries.

Taubert says the WHF, WHO, and WSO are hoping this summit will mirror one held 11 years ago--the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS--which resulted in concerted efforts to tackle this disease by organizations like the Gates Foundation, as well as governments.

"We are seeing these countries that have been ravaged by one thing and now they are going to be ravaged by another, and that's just so unnecessary," she concludes.

Also being presented at the UN summit is the "Global Diabetes Plan" [2], presenting cost-effective solutions to respond to the diabetes challenge and halt avoidable deaths, as well as improve the lives of people with diabetes, and the "Collaborative Framework for Care and Control of Tuberculosis (TB) and Diabetes" [3]. The latter addresses the fact that diabetes triples the risk of developing TB and TB can worsen glycemic control in people with diabetes; it also offers guidance for a coordinated response to the two diseases.

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