Greek doctors issued a stark warning to the country’s population yesterday, saying that unless people were willing to drastically change their attitude toward the problems caused by excessive weight, smoking and lack of exercise, cases of heart disease would keep spiraling. At a press conference held by some of Greece’s top specialists to mark World Heart Day, on September 25, the message was clear that Greeks needed to buck up their ideas or face years of pain and suffering brought on by heart problems. Dr Georgios Andrikopoulos, in charge of the First Cardiology Clinic of Evangelismos Hospital in Athens, presented the results of a study conducted in June, when 16,171 Greeks aged between 40 and 70 underwent cholesterol tests. The findings provided doctors with plenty of ammunition at yesterday’s presentation. The study found that a third were smokers, while 63 percent of those tested were overweight and 19 percent were obese; such high figures have not usually been associated with Greece in the past. Only a quarter of those found to be overweight acknowledged that they had a weight problem. Almost half of the men and 55 percent of the women tested had cholesterol levels which were considered dangerously high and put them at risk of suffering heart problems. A major concern for the doctors was that the vast majority of sufferers were blissfully unaware of the implications of their situation. Almost half said they did not exercise regularly but 88 percent of them did not think this had a negative impact on their health. Most of those tested said that they thought the most likely factor in provoking heart problems was stress. The head of the Cardiology Clinic at the Laiko Hospital in Athens, Vassilis Voteas, said that as many as 2.5 million Greeks had hypertension problems but only half were receiving any treatment for it. Dr Andrikopoulos said there was alarmingly low awareness of the dangers of the effect of other factors such as hypertension, diabetes, lack of exercise and weight problems. He said this was why the incidence of heart disease in Greece remained extremely high while other European countries had been able to reduce the problem.