UN health agency urges participation in worldwide walk events on Sunday

28 September 2002

In a bid to promote healthier lifestyles, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners are encouraging people of all ages to take a walk in commemoration of World Heart Day on Sunday.

In a bid to promote healthier lifestyles, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners are encouraging people of all ages to take a walk in commemoration of World Heart Day on Sunday.

The UN agency and the World Heart Federation are suggesting that the occasion be marked by any number of steps towards a healthier lifestyle, including quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising in order to protect against cardiovascular diseases and promote healthy ageing.

According to WHO, physical inactivity doubles the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and stroke. Worldwide, physical inactivity is a major public health problem, with an estimated two thirds of the global population insufficiently active.

Jointly, cardiovascular diseases and stroke are the main cause of death around the world, with 17 million deaths annually – one in three of all mortalities, the agency said. Cardiovascular diseases are particularly prevalent in old age. By 2020, unless effective public health action is taken, the total number of annual deaths due to these causes will increase to 24.8 million.

"Disease onset and functional decline that are often associated with growing older can be prevented or slowed down at any age," said WHO's Dr. Alexandre Kalache. "For example, a modest increase in physical activity, such as walking for 30 to 60 minutes every day, even at older ages can significantly reduce the risk for heart disease."

The World Heart Federation celebrates World Heart Day every 29 September. The Global Embrace, which is the annual advocacy event of the Global Movement for Active Ageing, draws attention to the health benefits of walking and others forms physical activity while providing enjoyment to all generations. It is organized each year on or around the International Day of Older Persons, marked on 1 October.

By co-organizing the walk events on 29 September, WHO and the World Heart Federation will be reinforcing each other's messages under the slogan "Active Ageing: Moving Hearts for Health."

 

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