World Heart Day
How young is your heart?
A message from the World Heart Federation

In it’s mission to try and reduce the number of people dying of heart disease, the world’s number one cause of death, the World Heart Federation is marking this year’s World Heart Day on 24 September with the theme: “How Young is Your Heart?”

The federation points out that a calorie-restricted, nutritionally balanced diet is associated with slowing the ageing process of the heart, which is why this year’s World Heart Day campaign asks: “How Young is Your Heart?”

Heart disease and stroke is the world’s largest killer, claiming some 17.5 million lives a year.Eighty per cent of these lives are from populations in low and middleincome countries, many amongst people of working age. Controlling major risk factors such as an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use can prevent heart attacks and stroke and help the heart to age more slowly.

“It’s almost an obsession in many societies to look as youthful as possible, but we should really be thinking about the age of our hearts,” said Professor Valentin Fuster, president, World Heart Federation. “If we put as much effort into keeping our hearts young, we would see a dramatic decrease in the number of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke each year.”

Physical activity is vitally important. Running for one hour or more each week could reduce the risk of heart disease by 42%. Brisk walking just 30 minutes each day could reduce the risk of heart disease by about 18% and stroke by about 11%. Going for a regular brisk walk in the park, along the beach or corniche is an easy way to achieve this level of activity.

Physical inactivity contributes significantly to the heart’s ageing as it leads to obesity, diabetes and hypertension. The heart is a muscle which needs regular activity to keep it pumping blood efficiently with every heart beat. Regular physical activity and its impact on associated risk factors helps to slow down the narrowing of the arteries to the heart and brain, encourages the body to use up excess stored fat, can help to reduce high blood pressure, improves “good” cholesterol levels (HDL cholesterol) and maintains normal blood glucose levels.

It is also important to balance calories consumed with calories burned to help maintain a young heart for life. For adults, at least 30 minutes of brisk walking a day is recommended and adopting a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, lean meat, fish and pulses, alongside low-fat and fatfree products. Unsaturated soft margarines and oils such as sunflower, corn, rape-seed and olive oil are preferred to saturated fats.

Tobacco use is one of the most important risk factors to control. Quitting will help to keep the heart young as it improves “good” cholesterol, reduces the levels of blood clotting and overall decreases the chance of a sudden blockage of a blood vessel.

Smokers not only put their own lives at risk, but they also endanger the lives of those around them, with passive smoking increasing the risk of coronary heart disease by 25-30%. Breathing second-hand smoke for even a short time can have immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of a heart attack.

Never too late

“Controlling the major cardiovascular risk factors can prevent heart disease and stroke and thereby slow the impact of ageing on the heart,” said professor Sidney Smith, University of North Carolina and chairman Scientific Advisory Board, World Heart Federation.

“It is never too late to start living a healthy lifestyle. By asking everyone to think about the age of their hearts on World Heart Day we are encouraging the world's population to adopt a hearthealthy lifestyle.”

World Heart Day is run by the World Heart Federation's member organisations in 100 countries.
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