The number of people suffering from heart disease in Greece is set to increase over the next few decades, doctors said yesterday as they presented a nationwide study on the problem. According to the survey, the key problem that Greeks need to overcome is ignorance – particularly among people under 50 years old – of the state of their own health as well as a lack of knowledge about the factors that lead to heart disease. One in three of some 30,000 people who were questioned as part of the study thought the main cause of heart problems is stress. Only 15.7 percent said that smoking was the most important factor. The same percentage said that high blood cholesterol was the most significant thing to look out for. Eight in 10 picked obesity, while 4.4 percent said that lack of exercise was mostly to blame. Cardiologist Giorgos Andrikopoulos, one of the doctors from the Hellenic Heart Foundation which conducted the study, said that Greeks underestimate the damage that smoking does to their hearts, while overestimating the impact of stress. Andrikopoulos also said that Greeks need to pay more attention to their weight and try to get more exercise. Four in 10 respondents said they did not exercise at all, while 45 percent of people under 50 said they were smokers. Only 26 percent of those aged over 50 said they smoked. Doctors said that the under-50s had similar obesity levels to the over-50s and claimed higher levels of stress, according to the study which was released ahead of an international conference on arteriosclerosis in Athens tomorrow. Meanwhile, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said that a meeting between public officials and experts in the field will take place in Athens in January to develop an «action plan» to tackle the «especially dangerous» problem of obesity in Greece. «Ten years ago, Greece was top of the European longevity table, now it is third,» said Avramopoulos, speaking in Istanbul, where he was attending a World Health Organization meeting on obesity.