Heart Week Focuses on Overweight as a Risk Factor for Heart Diseases

Monday, April 19, marks the start of the annual Heart Week in Estonia. This time, the focus is on excessive body weight as a significant risk factor for heart diseases.

Overweight and lack of physical activity are risk factors for developing heart diseases. The results of the most recent survey of health behaviour among adults from 2008 indicated that the body weight of nearly half of adult males and females exceeds the recommended value (BMI over 25). Every fifth of them is obese (BMI over 30): this is a condition which already needs assistance from a physician or nutritional specialist. Parents' overweight also poses a risk factor for heart diseases among children. According to the data of the Health Insurance Fund, the percentage of overweight schoolchildren has increased from 6.1% to 9.9% over the last five years. This means that today every tenth child in Estonia is overweight, and the number of overweight children has increased by more than 6000 over the last five years. An overweight child has a high risk of developing type II diabetes or diseases of the circulatory organs in adulthood; overweight also has an adverse effect on joints. The expenditure of the Health Insurance Fund on treatment of diseases of circulatory organs was 1.4 billion kroons in 2009. Medical assistance was provided for over 100,000 people due to problems with their heart and circulatory system. However, early morbidity and mortality stemming from diseases of the heart and circulatory system (before the age of 65) can be regarded as preventable. In 2009, half of the individuals needing medical treatment were younger than 65 and the expenditure for their treatment amounted to 500 million kroons. During the Heart Week, the National Institute for Health Development in cooperation with the Health Insurance Fund and the Ministry of Culture remind people of the necessity of physical exercise which is vital for reducing overweight.
A significant lowering of the heart disease risk is already contributed by a weight reduction of 5-10%. People who engage in regular physical exercise have 50% lower risk of developing ischemic heart disease and 25% lower risk of stroke. Even when an increased risk of heart diseases has already been identified, regular exercising helps lower the risk – the results can be seen both in reduced weight as well as in lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol.

During the Heart Week, the web programme “Meeste Tervisejutud“ (Health Talk for Men) is introduced within the project “Mehed liikuma“ (Men into Motion) (www.mehedliikuma.ee ), under the auspices of the Heart Center of the Northern Estonian Regional Hospital Foundation, Estonian Health Fund and Men's Clinic of the Tartu University Clinic Foundation. Moreover, the non-profit association Spordiklubi Liikumine (Sports Club Motion) launches the heart-friendly competition “Käi Jala!” (Go Walking!) (www.kaijala.ee ). Good advice is also given on web pages www.toitumine.ee and www.trimm.ee , where everyone can test their physical fitness, get information on various sports and find a suitable recreational sports event.