Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death in Germany. Federal Health Minister Lauterbach has also recognised this and has been developing addressing these issues in laws in the past year. The aim is to combat cardiovascular diseases more effectively and take preventative action against them. After an initial impulse paper with prevention and treatment measures was published last autumn, the German members of the EU Structural Heart Coalition Prof. Dr Ralph Stephan von Bardeleben, Prof. Dr Roland Hardt and Dr Mohammad Sherif presented the most important positions of the EU SHD Coalition in a letter to the Federal Ministry of Health and were invited to a meeting with Minister Lauterbach. The arguments favoring early detection of structural heart disease were constructively received.

In mid-April of this year, Prof Lauterbach gave an interview to Bild am Sonntag, one of Germany’s largest newspapers, and announced further details on the law. In particular, he addressed the following points

  • Regular heart health check-ups: at the ages of 25, 35 and 50, which are to be listed in the health insurance scheme
  • The preventive measures are billed via a voucher system
  • Mandatory determination of the risk of heart attack as part of the ‘U9’ examination for children
  • Costs for cholesterol-lowering drugs (‘statins’) to be borne by health insurers
  • Extension of cost coverage for smoking cessation medication

The involvement of health insurance companies in particular is a necessary step in the fight against cardiovascular disease and one of our demands. The planned heart check-ups are also a step in the right direction.

However, it is noticeable that the early detection of structural heart disease in people over the age of 65 has not been taken into account and no heart health check-ups have been announced for this group. Early detection measures are particularly important in the 65+ age group, as the prevalence of structural heart disease increases significantly from this age and cannot be prevented by primary prevention. It is therefore crucial to improve early detection through targeted screening of 65-year-olds. In addition, early detection measures would make a significant contribution to improving life expectancy in Germany, which is below average in Western Europe.

In order to emphasise these arguments, the German members of the EU SHD Coalition have written a second letter to the Federal Ministry of Health. This will enable them to exert further important influence on the content of the draft law to significantly improve the early detection of structural heart disease in older people.

According to Minister Lauterbach, the draft should be published before the parliamentary summer break at the latest.

Even if the details of the draft law presented so far still lack important points of content, the SHD coalition and its supporters’ contribution to the development of a ‘healthy heart law’ is considerable.