The European football family came out in force to support World Heart Day 2018 and associated efforts to prevent cardiovascular disease.
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This year more than 30 UEFA member associations supported World Heart Day, the planet's largest cardiovascular disease prevention campaign, held annually on 29 September.
Working alongside its social responsibility partner for health, Healthy Stadia, UEFA invited the European football family to support World Heart Day 2018 – and they delivered in style.
A majority of Europe's national associations gave resounding backing to the initiative, dedicating news articles and social media posts to World Heart Day and attracting thousands of likes, comments and shares across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Many went even further in their support, through matchday activities, community events or new organisational policies in aid of heart health.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes heart disease and stroke, causes more than half of all deaths across the EU. The European football family can help reduce the related risks by encouraging children, young people, fans and communities to make small lifestyle changes that will impact on not only their own heart health but also heart health globally. Dietary factors, smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes and alcohol are major contributory factors to CVD.
World Heart Day highlights
• The German Football Association (DFB) published an interview with its chief medic, Professor Tim Meyer, on the benefits of both regular football and walking football for men and women over 40. "Playing football is a very good instrument for ageing well. There is good evidence that football has health-promoting effects".
• The Football Association of Serbia (FSS) launched a bespoke 'World Heart Day' Twitter banner featuring Roma defender Aleksandar Kolarov and Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matić.
• With World Heart Day falling in UEFA Grassroots Week, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Football Federation (NFSBiH) advertised the campaign by asking participating children to perform a healthy heart selfie.
Focus on resuscitation
Other European FAs, such as England's, used World Heart Day to highlight the importance of learning first aid, particularly resuscitation techniques, in the event of a player, staff member or supporter falling ill playing or watching football.
The Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA/KBVB) produced a video on resuscitation techniques and the use of defibrillators which featured several of the country's FIFA World Cup semi-finalists.
Meanwhile the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) has also engaged national team players and staff in emergency medicine as it works extensively to raise awareness of sudden cardiac arrest.
Heart health has become a concern in the professional game following a number of high-profile incidents. Earlier this year Fiorentina defender Davide Astori died in his sleep as a result of cardiac arrest.
As part of its football and social responsibility portfolio, UEFA promotes active and healthy lifestyles, urging people of all ages to be more physically active and to eat a balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables.
In order to tackle chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, UEFA is also committed to providing a tobacco-free stadium environment for its major competitions.