Worldwide efforts to dramatically reduce deaths caused by heart disease should target three key areas: lowering blood pressure, cutting sodium intake and eliminating trans fats. So concludes a study conducted at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Investigators found that these three interventions would be relatively simple to implement and have the greatest impact on disease rates by 2040. They added that nearly 94 million people would be spared premature deaths worldwide as a result. Findings were based on a meta-analysis of global data and on reports of success in tackling the individual CVD culprits in various countries.

Expanded high blood pressure treatments would have the biggest effect, saving the lives of nearly 40 million people, the study’s authors wrote. This could be achieved in part by increasing the use of safe, affordable blood pressure medications, they said. In addition, reduced salt intake could prevent another 40 million deaths along with further decreasing high blood pressure. Eradicating trans fats would save 15 million more lives. Men would account for more than half of the delayed deaths, despite being a smaller population cohort, investigators found.

Among past private sector successes, the study team noted a large-scale Kaiser Permanente program that increased control of hypertension among thousands of its patients to 90% in the early 2000’s.

“These are realistic goals that have been shown to be attainable on smaller scales,” said lead author Goodarz Danaei, Ph.D. “We need the commitment to scale up the programs to achieve them globally.”