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Active ageing: Moving Hearts for Health

WHO and the world heart federation call on people of all ages to join world-wide walk events on 29 september

The Global Embrace on Active Ageing and World Heart Day will be celebrated jointly this year on Sunday, 29 September. Together the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Heart Federation are encouraging people around the world to take action, i.e. to exercise, stop smoking, and eat a healthy diet, and thus protect themselves from cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and promote healthy ageing.

Physical inactivity has been firmly established as a major risk factor for CVD in both men and women at any age. Indeed, physical inactivity doubles the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and stroke. Worldwide, physical inactivity is a major public health problem: it is estimated that around two thirds of the global population are not sufficiently active.

Jointly, cardiovascular diseases and stroke are the main cause of death globally, with 17 million deaths worldwide annually-one in three of all deaths. Cardiovascular diseases are particularly prevalent in old age. By 2020, unless effective public health action is taken, the total number of annual deaths due to these causes will increase to 24.8 million.

However, heart diseases and stroke are largely preventable. "Disease onset and functional decline that are often associated with growing older can be prevented or slowed down at any age," said Dr Alexandre Kalache, Coordinator of the Ageing and Life Course programme at WHO. "For example, a modest increase in physical activity (such as walking for 30 to 60 minutes every day) even at older ages can significantly reduce the risk for heart disease." No smoking, adequate physical activity and healthy diets are together the keys to healthy hearts and long healthy life.

Physical activity also has an impact on other risk factors for CVD. It helps control weight, reduces stress, anxiety and depression and helps to control diabetes, another major public health challenge worldwide today.

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization stated at the World Health Assembly 2002: "We have an immediate, safe and reliable remedy [to reduce] some of the major health risks linked to unhealthy consumption. It is free. It works for rich and poor, for men and women, for young and old. It is physical activity. At least 30 minutes each day."

On 29 September, the day on which the World Heart Federation celebrates World Heart Day every year, people of all ages will be encouraged to increase their level of physical activity.

The Global Embrace is the annual advocacy event of the Global Movement for Active Ageing. It consists of a chain of locally organized walks and celebrations encircling the globe during a 24-hour period. It draws attention to the health benefits of walking and others forms physical activity while providing enjoyment to all generations. It is organized each year on or around the International Day of Older Persons (1 October).

By co-organizing the walk events on 29 September, WHO and the World Heart Federation will be reinforcing each other's messages under the slogan "Active Ageing: Moving Hearts for Health."

For more information contact:

Ms Silvia Perel Levin
Telephone: +41 (22) 791 2650
Mobile phone: +41 (79) 400 3952
Fax: +41 (22) 791 4839

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