Source: V.P. (Vytenis) Andriukaitis i, published on Thursday, September 29 2016.

What causes heart disease? A simple question I have heard many times. My answer: while some some risk factors are difficult to influence - age, sex or family history - making healthy lifestyle choices, whether it is stopping smoking, switching to Mediterranean diet, exercising or reducing stress can prevent heart disease. [1]

These are individual choices. But can the European Commission or other policy makers do anything to help citizens to make the right choice? I think we can.

To tackle the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases and other non-communicable diseases, the Commission is keen to help EU countries reach, by 2025, the 9 voluntary global targets set out in the World Health Organization's global action plan in this area. These include reducing the harmful use of alcohol by 10%, intake of salt by 30%, and tobacco use by 30%, amongst others.

The Commission has already developed actions and initiatives in the area of public health that work towards such targets, including legislation (on tobacco, for example), funding instruments, and platforms for cooperation (on nutrition, physical activity, alcohol, etc.). We also support work in all policy areas that have an impact on public health: agriculture, trade, environment, transport, education, and more.

I am committed to building on this foundation, to improving coordination across policy areas and breaking down silos. I want to provide better tools, such as pushing further with reformulation frameworks which aim to reduce excess salt, saturated fat and sugars from the food we buy in supermarkets, and maximising the impact of platforms where Member States and stakeholders exchange and pilot best practices.

Today on World Heart Day, I would like to urge all EU citizens to also make a commitment: a commitment to making healthy choices for your heart. Simple lifestyle adjustments, such as exercising more, eating healthily, drinking less alcohol, etc. can make all the difference to your heart health today and in the future. "Healthy choices, healthy heart", is more than just a slogan, trust the former heart surgeon I am - it's way too often a matter of life and death.

For more information:

[1] At least 80% of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) could be avoided by reducing risk factors such as tobacco, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and insufficient physical activity.