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Cholesterol, smoking, stress top global list of heart-stoppers

Posted - Sep. 2, 2004 at 2:20 p.m.



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PARIS, Sept 3 (AFP) - One of the world's widest studies into heart attacks has identified nine risk factors that account for nine out of 10 of all cardiac arrests, with cholesterol, smoking and stress topping the table.

People who have high lipid concentrations in the blood or who smoke account for roughly 60 percent of all heart attacks, according to the study, published online Friday by the British medical weekly The Lancet.

Someone with high blood cholesterol faces a 3.25 higher risk of a heart attack than someone with normal levels; someone who smokes has a 2.9 higher risk than a person who has never smoked.

The analysis, called the Interheart study, covered 15,000 cases of heart attack in 52 countries and matched these individuals against 15,000 healthy people who had a similar age, sex and location.

The third biggest risk factor was stress, which accounted for more than a fifth of all heart attacks.

This was followed by diabetes; a family history of high blood pressure; and abdominal obesity.

The three other factors that determine risk are daily consumption of fruit and vegetables; regular physical exercise; and moderate alcohol consumption, defined as moderate alcohol intake three times a week.

"These results are consistent with across all geographic regions and ethnic groups of the world, men and women, young and old," said Salim Yusuf, a professor at McMaster University in Canada, who headed the study.

It showed that the main causes of coronary artery disease -- the biggest clinical source of heart failure -- lay in lifestyle patterns and thus could be influenced by change.

Yusuf's team also carried out a more detailed study into the link between stress and heart attack.

It assessed around 11,000 of the 15,000 cardiac cases from the main study, along with 13,600 "controls."

Stress at work, followed by stress at home (itself often provoked by financial worries) were cited as the two biggest sources of stress among those who had had a heart attack.

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COPYRIGHT 2004 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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