Half of the 400 000 deaths from coronary heart disease predicted in the United States in 2010 could be avoided if people ate healthier food and stopped smoking, according to research published recently.
The study of cardiovascular risk factors published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO) said improvements in cardiovascular health had stalled since the 1990s because of a dramatic rise in obesity and diabetes.
The number of heart disease fatalities in the United States could be halved if "one smoker in two in the United States stopped smoking", taking the proportion of smokers down from 25% to 12% of the population, WHO official Laragh Gollogly told AFP.
The study also showed the positive effect measures aimed at changing people's behaviour have on cardiovascular health, Gollogly said.
"By avoiding tobacco, eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity, people can dramatically reduce their risk of developing heart disease, stroke or diabetes," Shanthi Mendis, co-ordinator of Chronic Diseases' Prevention and Management at the WHO, said.
Behavioural change a major challenge
Changing people's behaviour was a major challenge for public health bodies, Gollogly said.
The report, co-authored by Simon Capewell, from the University of Liverpool in northwest Britain, said lifestyle is a major factor determining the health of many of the world's people.
Almost a billion adults are overweight around the world, the report said, and if no action is taken the number will pass 1.5 billion by 2015.
Cardiovascular health has improved significantly since the 1970s due to reductions in cholesterol, smoking and increased physical activity, the report said, but the rise of obesity has stalled these achievements, the study found. - (Sapa, February 2010)