One is never too young - or too old - to adopt lifestyle habits for the prevention of heart disease. That's the message from this year's major congress on cardiovascular prevention, EuroPRevent 2010, whose keynote theme is the "lifelong challenge".
EuroPRevent 2010 will take place at the Hilton
Prague in Prague, Czech Republic, from 5-7 May 2010.
The event promises to be the leading event of the year in preventive cardiology and we encourage you to mark the event in your news diaries. The scientific programme contains many new reports on a subject which is traditionally of great public interest.
As background to the theme, the chairman of the congress programme committee, Professor Joep Perk from the Linnaeus University in Sweden, says that there is now "very strong evidence" that atherosclerosis is a chronic condition which - even without symptoms - begins in childhood. And it's in childhood that prevention should begin. "Studies show a direct correlation between lifestyle in childhood and the later onset of heart disease," says Professor Perk. "We have seen from a follow-up study of more than a million children in Denmark that a raised body mass index (BMI) is causally associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The link is beyond dispute. So we have to start early."
Professor Perk lists a four-point approach designed to support the prevention of heart disease in children:
- Absolutely no smoking, whether active or passive. The evidence in favour of smoking bans - and the harm of second-hand smoke - is also becoming overwhelmingly strong.
- At least one hour of physical activity every day, either sports or just energetic playing.
- A varied diet which includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. "We are seeing too many children's diets with too few antioxidants," says Professor Perk, who also urges "extreme caution" with conventional fizzy drinks. "We are concerned about their sugar content," he explains, "and are hoping to include a more formal warning in our next guidelines."
- A good night's sleep. "Parents should ensure that children get all the sleep they need," says Professor Perk.
These same lifestyle commitments will also be effective in the elderly or even in those who have had a cardiovascular event. For example, a recent study of almost 19,000 heart attack patients showed that adherence to behavioral advice (diet, exercise, and non-smoking) was still associated with a substantially lower risk of recurrent events. The investigators advised that behavioral modification should be given the same priority as preventive medications. "Again," says Professor Perk, "this is very strong evidence, and a reminder that it is never too late, whatever the circumstances, to change lifestyle." A Main Session presentation at EuroPRevent 2010 by Dr Helmut Gohlke (from Bad Krozingen in Germany) will propose that recommendations for a heart-healthy lifestyle are applicable to everyone, whatever their age. "People have a view that once they reach 60 their risk of atherosclerosis is fixed," says Professor Perk, "but this is not true. Heart disease is a dynamic process and its risk can be moderated. The same basic principles apply to everyone, young and old."
Other scientific sessions will highlight further contentious and emerging themes (such as pre-participation screening in young and middle-aged athletes, the prognostic role of gene profiles, and even the foetal origins of cardiovascular disease) and provide new evidence in established themes. For example, new epidemiological data will be presented from the European Youth Heart Study, new findings on the response of the elderly to exercise training programmes, and the long-term cardiac implications of participating in high intensity sports. The congress's keynote Frederick H. Epstein Memorial Lecture will be presented by Professor Eric Rimm (from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston) on diet and lifestyle in the prevention of cardiovascular and where the biggest bang for the buck is to be found.
While such presentations will be among the scientific highlights of EuroPRevent 2010, Professor Perk sees the congress as a forum for primary care physicians, politicians, and nurses – as well as cardiologists and young researchers. Three out of five of the world’s most costly diseases are cardiovascular in nature, and their prevention is now recognised as an urgent public health need.
* Details of press participation in EuroPRevent 2010 can be found here.
Some press releases from EuroPRevent 2010 will be issued from the congress. In the meantime, we encourage you to mark the EuroPRevent 2010 dates in your diary, and to contact the ESC Press Office at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.