Wednesday 7 December 2016

Shape Up: Mend those broken hearts

Damien Maher

Published 14/02/2011 | 05:00

Library Image. Photo: Getty Images
Library Image. Photo: Getty Images

Valentine's Day is all about happy hearts. But let's forget about the romantic side of things for a minute and concentrate on all the broken hearts out there, the kind that have been torn asunder due to poor lifestyle and nutrition habits.

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Many people view their health in much the same way they view their finances. They don't value it until it's gone.

Heart disease is something cupid's arrow cannot heal. According to the World Health Organisation, more than one billion adults worldwide are overweight, and at least 300 million of these are clinically obese.

Think about it -- if you're carrying around all that extra weight, how much harder is your heart going to have to work to pump the blood around your body?

What's more, up to 80pc of cases of coronary heart disease, 90pc of type 2 diabetes cases and one-third of cancers can be avoided by changing to a healthier diet, increasing physical activity and stopping smoking.

Loren Cordain, writing in the 'American Journal of Clinical Nutrition', says that there is a discordance between our ancient, genetically determined biology and the nutritional, cultural, and activity patterns of contemporary western populations. It is due to this discord that many of the so called 'diseases of civilisation' have emerged.

Another article from the 'American Journal of Clinical Nutrition' says it is now clear that today's major ailments, such as heart disease and cancer, are complex, chronic diseases.

There is rarely a cure for chronic diseases, only treatment and medications. But how we treat chronic diseases needs to change. At present it is too common for an acute care model to be used to try and deal with them. The acute care model normally goes something like this: the clinician proceeds directly to the diagnosis, orders tests to confirm it and then names the disease in order to identify as quickly as possible a medication to treat that disease.

The consultation time is short and the doctor does not get to know all the details about what is happening in the patient's history, lifestyle, nutrition and sleep patterns.

What we really need, in this case, is to look at the causes that may have brought the patient to that current health status. Two different people could have similar health readings but they got there in two separate ways and may need two different solutions to restore them to health.

Metabolic syndrome -- which is a combination of medical disorders that increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes -- can be analysed through waist circumference (waist to hip ratio), triglycerides (checking for lipid abnormality), HDL readings, blood pressure and fasting blood glucose. If a patient has high readings in three out of five of these, it's a cause of concern.

Traditionally, a seriously overweight patient is told to eat less, exercise more and come back in three to six months. Obesity is more complex than just energy intake and expenditure as hormonal imbalances and genetic variances can exacerbate inactivity and poor nutrition in different people.

A long-term solution for mending broken hearts and reducing the risk of heart disease is needed through a combined approach.

Doctors have no time to address chronic disease, ie, diet and lifestyle disorders, and, in any case, their knowledge is limited.

A study done among primary care physicians in 2009 found that nearly all (96pc) of them believed there should be more emphasis on nutrition when it comes to the treatment and management of chronic disease.

So medicine needs to take an integrated approach with professionals such as doctors, nutritionists, dieticians and personal trainers coming together in order to combat the problem.

Surely the more happy hearts out there the better...

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