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‘Healthy weight, healthy shape’ key in preventing heart disease


Playing an increasingly important role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD), controlling one’s weight through healthy eating and regular exercise can directly reduce the risk of heart disease and also the impact of an existing heart condition. The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) joins the World Heart Federation in trumpeting the importance of ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Shape for a Heart for Life’ on World Heart Day, 25 September 2005.

Through its recent annual scientific event, the ESC Congress 2005, held in Stockholm, 3-7 September, the ESC uncovered various results with respect to weight control and exercise and CVD.

According to one study revealed during the ESC Congress by Professor Sans Menéndez, obesity is increasing in both sexes and at all ages in nearly all European countries due to a steady increase of total caloric intake and absence of sufficient daily exercise. In Southern Europe, Professor Sans Menéndez said that a departure from traditional Mediterranean diets toward manufactured foods may be contributing to the trend. She also pointed out that strong marketing pressure to consume foods high in total fat, refined sugar and salt makes children particularly vulnerable.

With regard to sport, two medical experts who spoke during the ESC Congress, Professors Hambrecht and Schmid, both agreed on the benefits of physical exercise as a preventive measure against heart disease. Professor Hambrecht said that moderately active persons were 30-40% less likely to die from heart disease as compared to the inactive, sedentary person. He went on to say that despite this solid epidemiologic evidence, the proportion of people who do not engage in sports at all continues to increase. He added that lack of sports is closely related to the epidemic of other risk factors for future heart attacks: Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. According to Professor Schmid, moderate aerobic training in most coronary artery disease patients is safe and can also help their condition. In these patients, he said, exercise training should be started under supervision, ideally in a structured rehabilitation program, which allows them to accustom themselves to regular physical exercise, to learn about their physical limits and to reliably determine the adequate exercise intensity.

Other results given at the Congress included those from EuroAction1, an ESC initiative, which showed that coronary patients can reduce the risk of future cardiovascular events by modifying their behaviour. This study is ongoing and is being conducted through the implementation of the Joint European Societies’ Guidelines on CVD prevention2 by nurse-led teams in busy general hospitals in eight countries. So far, EuroAction patients and their partners have achieved improvements in lifestyle, other cardiovascular risk factors and in the use of cardio-protective medication. Patients have stopped smoking, reduced their consumption of saturated (or ‘bad’) fats, increased daily intake of fruits and vegetables, and achieved greater levels of physical activity. Other CVD risk factors (e.g. weight and shape, blood pressure, and blood fat profile) all improved, and the vast majority were prescribed cardio-protective medicines. Patients’ partners also adopted a healthier diet and increased their physical activity with corresponding reductions in weight and shape, blood pressure and blood fats.

Gina Dellios | alfa
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