Screening behind closed doors, in the Chamber, for deputies and officials: all in the front row for cardiovascular prevention have undergone monitoring of their cholesterol levels in the last two days to shine the spotlight on cardiovascular diseases. This is the objective of the new initiative by Novartis, the Italian Association of Heart Failure Patients (Aisc) and the Italian Heart Foundation (Fipc) which starts from the ‘heart’ of Parliament and arrives in the Italian squares. The prevention program sponsored by Aisc and Fipc starts on 30 September which, in addition to educational materials, offers free cholesterol level measurements in some Italian squares.
On the occasion of World Heart Day celebrated on September 29th, Novartis and the main heart experts are gathered today in the Chamber of Deputies to continue the dialogue and share the urgency of initiating prevention strategies and targeted interventions aimed at tackling the growing incidence of heart diseases which in Italy, as in most countries Western diseases, still represent the leading cause of death in the adult population, with over 220 thousand deaths every year (in practice 25 every hour) – we read in a note – with a notable socio-economic impact: in Europe the costs for cardiovascular pathologies according to a study presented during the recent congress of the European Society of Cardiology – correspond to 282 billion euros, equal to 636 euros per capita. At an Italian level, these costs amount to over 41 billion euros, or 15% of healthcare spending, equal to 726 euros per capita, and therefore above the European average. Certainly alarming data, especially when compared to the percentage of public spending dedicated to prevention (7.3% of the 2022 National Health Fund) which places us among the last places in Europe.
“Carrying out prevention activities means saving lives. It is a clear message that we cannot confuse – says Annarita Patriarca, member of the XII Commission of the Chamber of Deputies – I am strongly convinced that we need to invest, as the Government is doing well, in primary and secondary prevention in relation to various pathologies. A clear signal comes from the Chamber on the importance of prevention.”
Cardiovascular diseases – the note details – are now the leading cause of death in adults, 30% of which can be attributed to a condition of thrombosis or atherosclerosis of the arterial wall (ischemic heart disease, ischemic stroke and peripheral arterial disease). Globally, 1/3 of ischemic heart disease is attributable to hypercholesterolemia which is responsible for 4.4 million deaths per year. Abnormalities in lipid metabolism, particularly high levels of LDL (so-called ‘bad’) cholesterol, play a crucial role in determining cardiovascular diseases, constituting the major risk factor. It is estimated that in Italy there are at least 7.5 million people involved in related problems, starting with hypercholesterolemia which affects at least 23% of women and 21% of men, a percentage that can even exceed 35 % if borderline LDL cholesterol values are also considered.
“The significant share of cases attributable to thrombotic conditions or atherosclerosis in which hypercholesterolemia is worrying – explains Pasquale Perrone Filardi, full professor of Cardiology, director of the School of Specialization in Diseases of the Cardiovascular System of the University of Naples Federico II and President of the Italian Society of Cardiology (Sic) – represents a key risk factor. Cardiovascular diseases are unfortunately confirmed as the main cause of death in the world, causing more deaths than all cancers. The tools and innovation available allow preventive intervention on approximately 80% of cardiovascular events. Persevering with collective efforts in awareness-raising activities helps to reduce the incidence of risk and save many lives.”
To stay ahead of the curve and avoid the risk of possible cardiovascular events, it is necessary to consider LDL cholesterol no longer as an indicator, but as a real risk factor. From these assumptions Novartis, with the patronage of the Italian Association for Decompensated Patients and the Italian Heart Foundation, will be present “in the heart” of some Italian cities – including in Rome on 30 September in Piazza San Cosimato and in Naples on 4 October in Piazza Ugo la Malfa – with free lipid profile measurement appointments, which will involve not only the Italian population but also institutional representatives who want to know their cholesterol levels and receive educational materials on risk prevention.
“Prevention, a correct lifestyle, knowledge of risk factors, early diagnosis, as well as treatment of the pathology in a patient care system and an integrated and interdisciplinary disease management model – explains Maria Rosaria Di Somma, Aisc-Aps managing director – are fundamental issues to stem the impact of cardiovascular diseases and the development of acute phases. In this context, every initiative aimed at informing the population represents an added value to prevent the disease”.
To initiate “preventive behaviors – adds Emanuela Folco, president of the Italian Heart Foundation – the fundamental starting point is to acquire an in-depth understanding of cardiovascular risk factors. This process begins with the management of LDL cholesterol and is completed by optimizing patient care through pathways that facilitate their adherence. We have always believed in the value and effectiveness of initiatives like these, to raise public awareness of the importance of cardiovascular prevention.”
Although it is the most easily modifiable cardiovascular risk factor, achieving an effective and sustained reduction in LDL cholesterol levels over time is still a challenge, so much so that 8 out of 10 high-risk patients are unable to reach the recommended levels. A scenario also confirmed by the OsMed 2022 report – continues the note – which highlighted how only 43.6% of the population treated with lipid-lowering drugs follows the therapy, also reporting that this reduces over time due to the complexity of the therapeutic regime and of unwanted effects. Among the important issues for the success of cardiovascular risk reduction, we also include that of adherence and persistence to therapy, which, together with proximity and territoriality, are at the center of the new healthcare structure designed in the Pnrr to address the challenge of chronicity.
“Thinking about the future of our country and how to enhance a state of good collective health, the time has come to seriously consider chronic pathologies – concludes Paola Coco, Country Head Medical Affairs of Novartis in Italy – which in Europe are at the origin of greater health costs, often avoidable. Like Novartis, we are convinced that putting the issue of prevention at the center, both through awareness programs and by paying particular attention to the segments of the population most exposed to risk with more targeted actions such as screening, means not only guaranteeing the right to health, but also build a society that leaves no one behind.”
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