Britain's love affair with alcohol, cigarettes and fatty foods is costing the country £7.5bn a year - more per capita than any nation in the EU.

Britain's love affair with alcohol, cigarettes and fatty foods is costing the country £7.5bn a year - more per capita than any nation in the EU.

The new figures are revealed in a pan-European survey carried out by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

It shows Britain not only spends more per head on healthcare combating heart disease - £3.4bn - but also loses more - £2bn - through patients and carers being unable to work, compared to its EU neighbours. A further £2bn is lost when victims die.

There are 2.7 million people in Britain who live with heart disease - a figure that is rising as the numbers dying from the illness fall. Professor Peter Weissberg, BHF medical director, said: "There is an exploding population of people who are living with heart disease and this has huge knock-on effects economically. As survival with heart disease has improved, it has become a long-term, chronic condition for more people, rather than a means to a quick death."

Professor Weissberg warned the increase in young people becoming obese threatened to cause even greater problems. "It's a time bomb waiting to go off," he added.

One of the prime causes of heart disease is smoking - more than 30,000 smokers die from it each year. The anti-smoking charity ASH said while the link between smoking and cancer was well known, the link with heart disease was less understood. ASH's spokesman Ian Willmore said the impact on the economy underlined the importance of smoking bans.

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