Monday, 29 September 2008

World Heart Day Today

World Heart Day 2008 - 'Know Your Risk' - is a call to action to help people better understand their personal risk for cardiovascular disease, including hypertension (high blood pressure). Heart disease and stroke is the world's largest killer, claiming 17.5 million lives each year. That's why World Heart Day was created, to create public awareness of risk factors for heart disease and stroke and to promote preventive measures. The theme of this year's World Heart Day is "Know Your Risk!" Organized by World Heart Federation members and partners, World Heart Day activities include free heart health screenings, walks, runs, jump rope sessions, fitness events, public talks, scientific forums, exhibitions, concerts, sports tournaments and much more.

"Know Your Risk!" World Heart Day, Sunday 28 September 2008

World Heart Day is arguably the most successful international campaign against heart disease and stroke. The World Heart Federation, a nongovernmental organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, created the annual campaign in the year 2000 to increase public awareness of the growing threat of heart disease and stroke.

The Challenge

Heart disease and stroke is the world's largest killer, claiming 17.5 million lives a year. Eighty per cent of the victims are from low- and middle-income countries. The good news is that heart disease is largely preventable and that simple, affordable steps that can be taken to reduce the major risk factors. Controlling these risk factors helps the heart to age more slowly and dramatically reduces the risk of heart disease.

The message of World Heart Day is a positive one and emphasizes the importance of a heart-healthy lifestyle to leading a better, longer life. Each year World Heart Day focuses on a specific theme. This year's campaign encourages people to "Know Your Risk!" and to find out what they can do to reduce it.

Go Red for Women

Heart disease and stroke kills more women each year than cancer, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

Worldwide, an average of more than 16 women per minute die of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.

The Go Red for Women international campaign aims to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women by building global attention and commitment to CVD in women.

Women can take action now to reduce the number of deaths and disability from heart disease and stroke.

Why Go Red

  • In 2005, roughly half of the 17.5 million victims of heart disease and stroke - the world's biggest killer - were women.1
  • Heart disease and stroke kills more women each year than cancer, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.2
  • Women experience coronary heart disease differently from men. Frequent symptoms are chest or stomach pains, nausea, breathlessness and unexplained tiredness.
  • Women are more likely than men to be under diagnosed and undertreated.3

The Go Red for Women campaign is implemented in countries by national heart foundations and societies of cardiology. Check with your national heart foundation for more information.

Know your risk factors

Many things may increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of suffering a heart attack or a stroke. Women have the same risk factors as men, and for some factors their risk is higher than men's.

You can modify, treat or control some major risk factors in order to lower your risk of heart disease or stroke.

Tobacco use: Women smokers have a higher risk of heart attack than male smokers.1 Women who smoke only 2-5 cigarettes double their risk of heart attack, while men who smoke 6-9 cigarettes a day double their risk. Constant exposure to secondhand smoke increases your risk. Women smokers who use birth control pills have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke than nonsmokers who use them. 2

Obesity and overweight: If you have too much fat especially in your waist area you are at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. The Body Mass Index measures your weight in relation to your height and is a common measurement to determine if you are overweight. Another measure is waist circumference.

If you are an obese smoker you can expect to live 14 fewer years than non smokers of normal weight.

Physical inactivity increases your risk of coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke 1.5 times. Walking reduces heart disease in women. Among inactive women, heart disease occurs almost twice as likely as in those who are more active. 3

Unhealthy eating: What you eat affects your heart health. Not enough fresh fruit and vegetables and too much sugar, salt and fat in your diet increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

High Blood Pressure is largely preventable.

Blood pressure increases with age, affecting two-thirds of women over 75.

Women have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure if they are obese, pregnant, have a family history of high blood pressure, take birth control pills or have reached menopause.

High Blood Cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and also increases the risk of stroke. Women's cholesterol is higher than men's from age 45 on. High levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) raise the risk of heart disease and heart attack and high levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) lower the risk of heart disease. 4

Diabetes affects more than 70 million women in the world. Women with diabetes have from 2.6 times the risk of heart disease and heart attack 5 and are at much greater risk of having stroke. 6

Some risk factors you can't control:

Increasing age: As you are getting older, your risk of heart disease and stroke begins to rise and continues increasing with age

Family history: If your close blood relatives have had heart disease or stroke you are more likely to develop them.

Previous heart attack or stroke: If you have had a heart attack, you are at higher risk of having a second heart attack. Same with a stroke.

Ethnicity: Some populations are more at risk than others. Some Hispanic Americans, Chinese, Japanese and African Americans are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

Know your warning signs

Signs of heart disease in women
  • Chest discomfort. Squeezing, discomfort or pain in the centre of the chest, between the breasts or behind the breastbone.
  • Discomfort spreading to other areas of the upper body such as one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue, anxiety or unusual nervousness, indigestion or gas-like pain, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, lightheadedness and collapse.
Warning signs of stroke in women
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Children & youth

A healthy heart is vital for living life to the full, regardless of age and gender. Unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and smoking are the leading causes of heart disease and stroke. The unhealthy lifestyles that lead to cardiovascular disease often begin in childhood and adolescence, so that prevention of heart disease must begin there. The World Heart Federation works to prevent tobacco use and promote healthy diets and physical activity among children and youth.

Eat for Goals! is about good food, cooking and football. It has been created to encourage young people to be more conscious of living active lifestyles and eating well. The book's simple message, "A healthy lifestyle is also based on healthy food", is conveyed by a multi-ethnic group of 13 internationally renowned male and female football players and their food choices.
Learn more about Eat for Goals! >

Sesame Workshop
The World Heart Federation is very proud to partner with Sesame Workshop on its international "Healthy Habits for Life" initiative, a comprehensive effort to use multimedia to help young children and their parents live healthier lives. Learn more about the project promoting healthy diets and physical activity among children in Colombia.

Youth for health
To help its member network become more involved in youth activism on health, the World Heart Federation supported the First Global Youth Meet (Gym 2006) and sponsored the attendance of teams from 8 of its member organizations. Youth leaders from around the world attended the meeting, which was organized in India by HRIDAY-SHAN. They formed the Youth for Health (Y4H) movement to promote healthy lifestyles and advocate for health-promoting policies. Learn more about the Global Youth Meet and youth health advocacy.

Rheumatic heart disease
Rheumatic heart disease is the leading heart problem among children, adolescents and young adults in developing countries. It causes young people to develop heart failure, and many eventually die from the disease or require heart surgery, which is often not available or affordable in the countries where the disease is most common. Learn more about World Heart Federation activities aimed at preventing rheumatic heart disease and the recurrences of rheumatic fever that cause it.

Facts & Figures

Quick facts and figures on themes related to heart disease. See fact sheets for more detailed information.

  • There are 400 million adults worldwide who are obese and 1.6 billion who are overweight. Children are getting fatter too. Worldwide, 155 million children are overweight, including 30-45 million obese children
  • Many developing countries face the challenges of under nutrition while confronting obesity at the same time.
  • A diet high in saturated fats and trans fats leads to abnormal blood lipids.
  • Eating a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables promotes heart health. Low fruit and vegetable intake accounts for about 20% of cardiovascular disease worldwide.
  • Hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A diet high in sodium increases the risk of developing hypertension. It has been estimated that a universal reduction in dietary intake of sodium by about 1g of sodium a day, about 3g of salt, would lead to a 50% reduction in the number of people needing treatment for hypertension.
  • The risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) increases in linear fashion with the number of cigarettes smoked each day leading to a twofold risk of death among smokers compared to nonsmokers.
  • Physical inactivity increases the risk of developing heart disease 1.5 times and doubles the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Inactivity alone may have contributed as much as €55.76 billion to US medical costs in the year 2000. In the UK that figure was €1.56 billion in 2002.
    In Canada the equivalent figure for 2001 was €3.63 billion.
  • Worldwide nearly one quarter of all teenage smokers smoked their first cigarette before they were 10 years old. If children take up smoking and do not stop then half of them will die from a smoking-related disease.
  • Rheumatics fever, a disease of poverty where the worst affected areas with some 500,000 children affected are the Pacific island nations and sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, about 8 million children are affected by rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.
  • About 13 million people are affected by Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis), found only in Latin America. Chagas disease leads to unexpected death in 37.5% of patients, 58% develop heart failure and die.
  • About 13 million Americans have coronary heart disease, and about half a million people die from it each year.

Eating for a Healthy Heart

Eat Healthy to Help Prevent Heart Disease

What kills Americans most? Heart disease. It’s the No.1 cause of death in this country.

You can lower your chances of getting heart disease. One way is to choose foods carefully. For a healthy heart, eat:

  • less fat
  • less sodium
  • fewer calories
  • more fiber.

Eat less Fat

Some fats are more likely to cause heart disease—saturated fats and trans fats. These fats are usually found in foods from animals, such as meat, milk, cheese, and butter. They also are found in foods with palm and coconut oils. Eat less of these foods.

Eat less Sodium

Eating less sodium can help lower some people’s blood pressure. This can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Sodium is something we need in our diets, but most of us eat too much of it. Much of the sodium we eat comes from salt we add to our food at the table or that food companies add to their foods. So, avoid adding salt to foods at the table.

Eat fewer Calories

When we eat more calories than we need, we gain weight. Being overweight can cause heart disease. When we eat fewer calories than we need, we lose weight.

Eat more Fiber

Eating fiber from fruits, vegetables, and grains may help lower your chances of getting heart disease.

Diet Tips for a Healthy Heart

  • Eat a diet low in saturated fat, especially animal fats and palm and coconut oils.
  • Add foods to your diet that are high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, and seafood.
  • Eat foods containing polyunsaturated fats found in plants and seafood. Safflower oil and corn oil are high in polyunsaturated fats.
  • Choose a diet moderate in salt and sodium.
  • Maintain or improve your weight.
  • Eat plenty of grain products, fruits, and vegetables.
Instead of:
Do This:
whole or 2 percent milk, and cream use 1 percent or skim milk
fried foods eat baked, steamed, boiled, broiled,
or microwaved foods
lard, butter, palm, and coconut oils cook with unsaturated vegetable oils,
such as corn, olive, canola, safflower,
sesame, soybean, sunflower, or peanut
fatty cuts of meat, such as prime rib eat lean cuts of meat or cut off the fatty
one whole egg in recipes use two egg whites
sour cream and mayonnaise use plain low-fat yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, or low-fat or “light” sour cream
sauces, butter, and salt season vegetables with herbs and spices
regular hard and processed cheeses eat low-fat, low-sodium cheeses
salted potato chips and other snacks choose low-fat, unsalted tortilla and potato chips and unsalted pretzels and popcorn

Read the Food Label

The food label can help you eat less fat and sodium, fewer calories, and more fiber.

Look for certain words on food labels. The words can help you spot foods that may help reduce your chances of getting heart disease. The FDA has set rules on how these words can be used. So, if the label says “low-fat,” the food must be low in fat.

Look at the side or back of the package. Here, you will find “Nutrition Facts.” Look for these words:

  • Total fat
  • Saturated fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium.

Look at the % Daily Value listed next to each term. If it is 5% or less for fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, the food is low in these nutrients.

That’s good. It means the food fits in with a diet that may help reduce your chances of getting heart disease.

Tips for Losing Weight

  • Eat smaller portions.
  • Avoid second helpings.
  • Eat less fat by staying away from fried foods, rich desserts, and chocolate candy. Foods with a lot of fat have a lot of calories.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.

Eating for a Healthy Heart

You can lower your chances of getting heart disease. One way is through your diet.


  • Eat less fat and sodium.
  • Reduce your calories if you’re -over--weight.
  • Eat more fiber.
  • Eat a variety of foods including plenty of bread, rice, cereal, fruit and vegetables.
  • If you drink beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.

Some Other Things You Can Do

Ask your doctor to check your cholesterol level. This is done with a blood test. The test will show the amount of cholesterol in your blood with a number. Below 200 is good. The test will also show the amount of “good” and “bad” cholesterol. Your doctor can tell you more about what these numbers mean.

If your cholesterol is high, your doctor may suggest diet changes, exercise, or drugs to bring it down.

Regular exercise–such as walking, swimming, or gardening–can help you keep your weight and cholesterol down.

For More Information

If you have questions, you can call your nearest FDA office. Look for the number in the blue pages of the phone book.

Or call the FDA’s toll-free Food Information line at (888) SAFEFOOD (723-3366).

Or look for the FDA on the Internet at

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The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that makes sure that foods are safe, wholesome, and honestly labeled.

Department of Health and Human Services
Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane (HFI-40)
Rockville, MD 20857


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