Cardio-vascular disease - why the thousands of unnecessary deaths?

Cardio vascular diseases claim 50 thousand lives in Hungary every year. And experts believe that lifestyle factors - lack of exercise and poor diet - are making that figure much higher than it needs to be. Cardiologist, Dr Lajos Matos, is involved in a number of research projects into cardio-vascular disease. He told Gyorgy Jakobi about the main lifestyle factors leading to heart disease:

The government launched a programme to combat cardio vascular disease on March 20th. The new programme may please Dr. Matos as it aims at testing and treating all the illnesses which belong to the cardio vascular group together! Eating habits also play a leading role in developing cardio vascular disease.

"Eating habits - the Hungarian cuisine - are pretty dangerous. Our fat intake is very high, we are not taking enough olive oil and so forth, but we tend to eat meat which is very rich and which contains such fats that are not good for our vessels."

Eating healthily isn't that easy though - decade-long theories often collapse. One doesn't know if salt or coffee, for example, does or does not increase our blood pressure. While scientists continue to discuss the impact of salt or coffee on our heart and vessels, and Hungarians consume more than the average of both, they agree on something that may cause surprise.

"Coffee is not really increasing blood pressure but what is increasing blood pressure is coke! Even 3 or more cups of coffee a day does not increase blood pressure, but if one is drinking 3 or 4 glasses of coke per day that does increase blood pressure in the long run."

The implications are obviously most dangerous for children and not only because of the high blood pressure risk, but also because these drinks are a crucial factor in childhood obesity. That's why the Education Ministry's initiative to change fundamentally the offer of school canteens is important.

"Absolutely! This step is one of the most important steps in health care in Hungary in the last few decades because we should start in the schools, we should start with the children, and if the children are drinking fewer very high calorie drinks, cokes and so forth, if they are eating more vegetables and fruits, then it would be a big step and a very-very important step in the future and the health of the future generation."

Discussion about limiting the choice of sugary drinks, sweets and chips in school buffets is continuing among Education Ministry officials, the buffet managers and parents. Pupils will either accept healthier food or purchase their favourite snack in the nearby grocery store.