Originally published May 13 2009
Massive Decline in Coronary Deaths in Iceland Due Mostly to Natural Health Strategies
by S. L. Baker, features writer
(NaturalNews) It sounds miraculous. In the 25 years between 1981 and 2006 mortality rates from coronary heart disease (CHD) in Iceland decreased by an amazing 80 percent in men and women between the ages of 25 and 74. How could such a huge decline be explained?
Was it the result of some miracle drug? Are the health services in Iceland incredibly better than elsewhere? Findings of a study by the Icelandic Heart Association and the University of Iceland have the answer -- the vast majority of the cardiac mortality decrease in Iceland was attributable to reductions in risk factors throughout the general population. And the lowered risk was accomplished by simply adopting natural, healthy living strategies. Bottom line: the "miracle" heart attack-disease prescription turned out to be getting more exercise, not smoking and eating nutritious foods.
To figure out what caused the huge drop in CHD deaths, Dr. Thor Aspelund and his research team from the Icelandic Heart Association and the University of Iceland applied a validated CHD analysis model (called the IMPACT mortality model) to thoroughly analyze official Icelandic death statistics, national quality registers, published trials and meta-analyses, clinical audits and a series of national population surveys. The results of this research, just presented at the EuroPRevent 2009 meeting in Barcelona, Spain, show that about three-quarters of the mortality decrease in Iceland was attributable to reductions in risk factors. Specifically, it appears Icelanders are living longer with healthier hearts because they have taken control of their health.
In a press release, Dr. Aspelund claimed the study also highlights the potential importance of effective, evidence-based medical treatments. And in fact, one quarter of the decrease in CHD deaths in Iceland was credited to actual medical treatment or surgery. But the other 75 percent reduction in heart deaths was a result of people reducing risk factors through their lifestyle choices.
"Approximately three-quarters of the large coronary heart disease mortality decrease in Iceland between 1981 and 2006 was attributable to reductions in major cardiovascular risk factors in the population. These were mainly in total serum cholesterol, smoking and blood pressure levels," Dr. Aspelund explained in a statement to the media. "The findings emphasize the value of a comprehensive strategy that promotes tobacco control and a healthier diet."
A similar pattern has been found in the USA among individuals. When there's an improvement in risk factors (mainly blood pressure, smoking and lowered cholesterol), CHD deaths fall. The American Heart Association (AHA) points out that cardiovascular disease is mostly avoidable with a healthy lifestyle that involves these A,B, Cs: Avoid tobacco, Be active, and Cchoose nutritious foods.
So how can it be possible that coronary heart disease remains a major cause of death and stroke in the U.S. as a whole? How can a disease process that is virtually totally avoidable be the number three killer in this country?
The AHA website offers this answer -- there's a lack of commitment by Americans to follow a heart-healthy lifestyle. And although the AHA is certainly part of mainstream medicine, the AHA concurs with what natural health advocates have been saying for decades on another point: "Your lifestyle is not only your best defense against heart disease and stroke, it's also your responsibility."
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