Obesity epidemic risks heart disease “tsunami”

“When you put aside two or three countries - the U.S., Australia and New Zealand - it’s a lot more middle income countries where obesity is the highest,” Ezzati said.

Average levels of total blood cholesterol fell in North America, Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and Europe, but increased in East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific region, the studies found.

Blood pressure levels are highest in the Baltic countries, and in East and West Africa.

Commenting on the findings in the Lancet, Sonia Anand and Salim Yusuf from McMaster University in Canada said they showed a global “tsunami of cardiovascular disease” which needed to be met with population-wide efforts to cut intake of bad fats and salt, and increased levels of exercise.

Ezzati said it was “heartening” that many countries had successfully reduced blood pressure and cholesterol despite rising levels of BMI, and said steps to get people to eat less salt and healthier, unsaturated fats, had helped - as well as improved screening and treatment.

These lessons should be implemented more widely in nations of all levels of economic development, he said.

A special meeting of the United Nations General Assembly is scheduled for September to talk about the rising threat of so-called non-communicable, or chronic, diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes, particularly in poorer countries.

By Julie Steenhuysen and Kate Kelland


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