Study shows Mediterranean diet and exercise keep Greeks healthy, with lowest rate of cardiac arrest

A study begun in 1960 and conducted in seven countries has found that Greece is the country with the lowest incidence of heart attacks. The study dealt chiefly with groups of men aged 49-60 from the Netherlands, USA, Italy, Japan, Yugoslavia, Finland and Greece. In Greece, 40 years after two groups in the rural areas of Corfu and highland Crete were first observed, the study, in which the Hellenic Heart Foundation participated, recently ended on Corfu. It found that 12 percent of the original group was still alive and that the elderly peasants – aged 60 to 100 – continued to take some form of exercise, from cycling to gardening, did not smoke, ate plenty of fruit and vegetables, often took naps and lived calm lives. The Mediterranean diet and physical exercise, said Professor of Cardiology and head of the Heart Foundation Pavlos Toutouzas, were responsible for Greece emerging «as a country with the lowest incidence of cardiovascular disease.» Recent statistics by the World Health Organization attribute one in three deaths in Western societies to cardiovascular disease, with the number of deaths «six times the number of deaths from AIDS, while 80 percent of heart attacks take place among the lower classes,» said Toutouzas. Saturated fats, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle, which have been linked to cardiovascular disease, are now part and parcel of a new way of life for Greeks, says a study by Athens University’s Cardiological Clinic, undertaken with the Heart Foundation. The survey in Attica, showed that 60 percent of men and 64 percent of women led sedentary lives. Only 22 percent of men and 23 percent of women did great amounts of physical exercise. A sedentary lifestyle doubles the chances of getting coronary heart disease. The Sixth International Congress on high blood cholesterol and arteriosclerosis, organized by the Hellenic Heart Foundation and Athens University’s Cardiological Clinic, will debate these facts on 6-7 Dec. at the War Museum.

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