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With These 3 Lifestyle Interventions, Clinicians Can Prevent 94 Million Premature Deaths

As a healthcare practitioner, you can make small changes when interacting with patients to contribute to these life-saving interventions.

Three achievable, affordable public health interventions could prevent 94 million early deaths worldwide over the next 25 years, according to a new study. Implementing a global effort to lower blood pressure, reduce sodium intake, and eliminate trans fats, could dramatically reduce the incidence of premature death from cardiovascular disease.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a study that viewed worldwide data on mean blood pressure levels and sodium and fat intake by age, country, and sex. The information was collected from a pooled analysis of population health surveys, regional estimates of current coverage of antihypertensive medications, and cause-specific mortality rates for each country. Additionally, the researchers studied projections from 2015 to 2040 and used the most recent meta-analyses of epidemiological studies to calculate the relative risk reductions for each intervention.

As a culmination of their research, they concluded the following facts:

  • Eliminating trans-fats could prevent 14.9 million early cardiovascular disease-related deaths.
  • Extending hypertension treatment to 70% of the world’s population could lengthen the lives of nearly 40 million people.
  • Reducing sodium intake by 30 percent could also prevent 40 million deaths from cardiovascular disease.

The study also has several clinical implications:

  • “Implementing hypertension diagnosis and control guidelines is key to reducing mortality from cardiovascular diseases globally.”
  • Treating at least 50% of hypertension patients could dramatically reduce cardiovascular-related deaths.
  • “Interventions that result in reductions of salt intake can further and substantially reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease.”

For all the early deaths that could be prevented, over half are projected to be among men, who develop the greatest numbers of noncommunicable deaths worldwide. Of the regions that would benefit from the dietary interventions, East Asia, the Pacific, South Asia, and countries in sub-Saharan Africa ranked among the highest.

The researchers noted that programs and policies are needed to reduce premature cardiovascular disease-related deaths. While implementing all three interventions would be a major challenge, earlier analyses indicate that interventions are achievable. In northern California, between 2001 and 2013, one Kaiser Permanente program increased hypertension control to 90% among their patient population. Strategies like patient-friendly services and improved treatment protocols were responsible for the success of this intervention.

The researchers note that increasing the use of blood pressure medicines is a safe and affordable strategy intervention. They advise addressing nutrition with patients whenever possible. You should also address nutrition with your patients whenever possible. Dr. Goodarz Danaei from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health states, “Encouraging patients to reduce salt intake and avoiding products with trans-fat are also important health promotion messages…” He provides an example: “...Don’t use table salt and don’t use salt during cooking. Use flavors other than salt, such as pepper and lemon juice, and fresh, flavorful ingredients. Also, avoid products made with trans-fats, such as icing on pastries.”

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