Unilever and World Heart Federation announce new initiative

Unilever and the World Heart Federation announce a joint initiative to promote awareness of Heart Age - a new, personally motivating way of expressing an individual’s risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

At a global media launch, leading worldwide cardiovascular disease (CVD) experts - including Professor Pekka Puska (President, World Heart Federation) and Professor Rod Jackson (Head of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of Auckland) - pledged their support for the new concept, which they believe could help in the global effort to reduce CVD, the leading cause of premature death worldwide.

Professor Puska stated, “If Heart Age can engage individuals and motivate them to change their diet and lifestyle for the better, no matter what their level of risk, then this could be a breakthrough in the global effort towards improved CVD prevention, which could save hundreds of thousands of lives and sparing many more the misery of heart disease and stroke.”

Heart Age, based on the well-established and highly respected Framingham Risk Score, uses standard risk factors for heart disease or stroke (such as age, weight, gender, cholesterol, blood pressure and smoking) to estimate your ‘Heart Age’, which could be higher than your chronological age if your personal CVD risk factors are high.

Today’s gathering supports the fact that this could be a powerful way for health professionals to help motivate people, at all levels of risk, to make the behavioural changes needed to keep their hearts healthier for longer.

At the global media launch, Unilever unveiled a new report entitled ‘What If People’s Hearts Stayed Young?’, which publishes, for the first time, the theoretical effect on the numbers of heart attacks and strokes (CVD events) over the next decade that might be achieved if people estimated to have an elevated Heart Age were able to reduce it by three years. The modelling used data from the UK and USA as examples.

The results are inspiring. They suggest that if people estimated to have elevated Heart Ages lowered them by three years, predicted CVD events could be reduced over ten years by an estimated 216 000 in the UK, and by an estimated 1 million in the USA.

The modelling further calculates that, if everyone – not just those with elevated Heart Ages - managed to keep their Heart Age as young as their chronological age, the predicted number of CVD events over ten years could be reduced by an estimated 986 000 in the UK and by an estimated 5 million in the USA.

Unilever has built on the concept of Heart Age and developed an accurate and simple online tool to enable people to find out their own Heart Age and for health professionals to better engage their patients in their own heart health. After piloting the Heart Age Tool in 18 countries, Unilever has developed it further, adding a tailored heart health plan to guide and motivate people to make lifelong changes to their diet and lifestyle that can help reduce their personal cardiovascular disease risk factors.

Unilever’s Chief Executive Officer, Paul Polman, says the company will track and share information on progress by publishing data at regular intervals for the benefit of the wider heart health community. It is intended that the Heart Age Tool will also be available for doctors to use in patient communications.

Paul Polman comments: “We are excited by the potential for Heart Age, combined with our consumer-friendly Heart Age Tool, to make a real difference in motivating people to look after their heart. We are indebted to the World Heart Federation for their strong support for this Heart Age initiative, and to individuals and organisations whose expert collaboration has made it possible.

We should all remember that behind every statistic contained in our Heart Age Report is a person, a family and a community who could be helped through our combined efforts to reduce the devastating impact of heart disease or stroke”.

Over 2 million people have taken the Heart Age test to date. This has given Unilever the confidence to focus its heart health consumer awareness and education efforts on a specific goal: to motivate 100 million people worldwide to take the Heart Age test and to encourage diet and lifestyle changes that will lower elevated Heart Ages in this group by three years, on average, by 2020.


Notes to Editors

  • According to the World Health Organization[1] (WHO), deaths from CVD will increase from 17.2 million per year in 2005 to 24 million per year in 2030 – the equivalent of losing more than the entire population of Australia every year.

  • The Heart Age concept is a translation of the well established Framingham Risk Score, which has been adapted into similar European risk assessment scores.

  • Heart Age is about the ‘relative risk’ of a person developing CVD over the next ten years, compared to a healthy person. This relative risk is virtually the same whichever risk score is used.

  • Heart Age is a simple way of estimating and expressing common cardiovascular risk factors. The Heart Age tool does not provide diagnostic information, does not evaluate an individual’s medical condition, and does not provide medical advice. People should consult their doctor for medical information and advice.

  • The Heart Age Tool was developed by Unilever and builds upon the output of a research project published in the peer-reviewed journal, Circulation [2].

  • Take the Heart Age test for yourself at www.heartagecalculator.com This is a generic holding page that allows you to access the new global website if you wish to remind yourself of the new-look Heart Age Tool, as presented at the global media launch on Tuesday June 9, 2009.

Find the Heart Age Tool here www.heartagecalculator.com

[1] World Health Organization. The global burden of disease: 2004 update. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2008. Available at http://www.who.int

[2] D’Agostino RB et al. General cardiovascular risk profile for use in primary care. The Framingham Heart Study. Circulation published online Jan 22, 2008.


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