BLOG-World-Health-DayInternational leaders are being urged to recognize the global threat of cardiovascular disease and prioritize healthier environments where people work, live and play as part of the focus of this year’s World Heart Day.

The day, created in 2000 to draw attention to cardiovascular health, is held annually on Sept. 29.

This year, the World Heart Federation is encouraging people to sign a petition urging international leaders to help create healthier environments, which would allow people to improve their daily habits.

According to the World Heart Federation, not everyone has a choice. Many adults and children live in areas lacking access to green spaces; are provided unhealthy school meals; and are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke in parks, offices and during their daily commute.

Lack of physical exercise, poor diet and smoking can contribute to poor cardiovascular health.

Cardiac arrest, stroke and cardiovascular disease currently account for almost 17 million deaths per year worldwide, a figure expected to reach 25 million per year by 2030.

“Beyond the social imperative to minimize suffering, we must recognize the economic hardships created by such staggering numbers. Our world is a highly interconnected one and all countries bear the consequences of the global burden of heart disease and stroke,” said Elliott Antman, M.D., American Heart Association president and professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

“We must also use our tools and our data to build a culture of health where an ideal cardiovascular state is the norm —a universal right that should be enjoyed by all members of our society around the world,” he said.

The Global Cardiovascular Disease Taskforce recently urged the United Nations Open Working Group to include cardiovascular health as a goal for 2015 and beyond. Securing support and resources to hinder the rise of non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and stroke, would result in significant health improvements worldwide.

“The AHA is delivering on the vision put forth by its founders to raise awareness about heart disease in the lay public and among health professionals by supporting critical research and fostering a culture of health in the United States,” said Antman. “We also collaborate with the World Heart Federation and other societies around the world to support the World Health Organization’s goal of reducing premature mortality from cardiovascular disease by 25 percent by 2025,” said Antman.

The last U.N. working group session proposed a goal for health, specifically to “attain healthy lives for all at all ages” to reduce “morbidity and mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment, and promote mental health and well-being” by one-third by 2030.

The AHA’s own impact goal is to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.

“World Heart Day is an excellent opportunity for us to exercise our social responsibility to advocate for the right of everyone around the world to have access to affordable, high quality care for CVD regardless of their ability to pay,” said Antman.

The Global Cardiovascular Disease Taskforce represents the following participating organizations: World Heart Federation; African Heart Network; Asia Pacific Heart Network; Asian Pacific Society of Cardiology; American Heart Association; American College of Cardiology Foundation; European Heart Network; European Society of Cardiology; InterAmerican Heart Foundation; InterAmerican Society of Cardiology; and Pan-African Society of Cardiology.