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Community-wide health program slows creep toward heart disease

A five-year push to blanket a Dutch community with healthy heart programs and education curtailed three major risk factors for heart disease: body mass index, waist circumference and blood pressure.

The cardiovascular disease prevention plan targeted residents of Limburg, a province on the southern edge of the Netherlands. The campaign, dubbed Hartslag Limburg -- Dutch for Heartbeat Limburg -- included nearly 800 programs from bicycling clubs and supermarket education tours to pamphlet distribution, a stop-smoking effort and commercials on local media outlets.

"This program was capable of actually, not so much improving the health status, but preventing the age- and time-related worsening of health status of this population," said lead researcher Albertine J. Schuit, Ph.D.

The study reports on health indicators for more than 2,400 people between the ages of 25 to 70. About 750 residents from another Dutch region were also tracked between 1998 and 2003, but the second community was not exposed to the programs encouraging residents to become more active, reduce their fat intake and stop smoking.

The study appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

As people age their risk for heart disease typically spikes with each passing year. For BMI, waist circumference and blood pressure, the worsening over time was less pronounced among the Limburg residents in the study.

The average waist circumference of the men in the Limburg group decreased by 0.4 centimeters, while men in the other Dutch community gained an average of 2.7 centimeters over five years -- a more than six-fold difference.

The average BMI of the Limburg women increased by 0.38 kg/m2, while their counterparts put on 0.63 kg/m2.

Systolic blood pressure (the top number) was significantly lower for both Limburg men and women, with differences of 7.8 mm/Hg and 5.5 mm/Hg respectively.

The researchers also monitor
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Contact: Lisa Esposito
202-387-2829
Center for the Advancement of Health
2-Mar-2006


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