Study: European heart patients are not reforming their lifestyles

Friday, March 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ Europeans with heart disease are ignoring advice on living healthier lives, and physicians aren't doing enough to help them, new research shows.

The number of European heart patients who smoke, are obese or have developed diabetes has risen in the past six years, despite a major campaign to convince them to adopt healthier lifestyles, and high blood pressure is just as common, according to the study published this week in The Lancet medical journal.

U.S. heart specialists say the report card for Americans with heart trouble is just as disappointing.

``It's discouraging, a miserable picture,'' said Dr. Jerome Cohen, a cardiology professor at St. Louis University School of Medicine who was not connected with the study. ``There are a lot of fingers to point.''

While patients must take the ultimate responsibility for improving their lifestyles, physicians are also not trying hard enough to convince them of the benefits of changing, experts say.

``We have the tools at hand, but doctors aren't doing it. They are out there looking for DNA, and other answers. It's ironic,'' Cohen said.

In the study, scientists from the National Heart and Lung Institute in London examined more than 3,500 heart patients in nine European countries in 1995 and repeated the investigation last year on another group of patients in the same areas to gauge any improvements.

They compared the proportion of patients in each survey who had achieved goals known to reduce the chances of further heart trouble, such as quitting smoking, exercising, eating healthier and taking the correct drugs.

The prevalence of smoking had inched up, with 19 percent smoking in the first survey and 21 percent in the second, the study found.

Obesity increased in all countries and overall rates rose from 25 percent to 33 percent. The proportion with high blood pressure was about the same _ 55 percent in the first survey and 54 percent in the second.

``For so many patients ... to have such high blood pressure is not acceptable in modern medical practice,'' the study said.

On the bright side, more patients were getting heart drugs and the prevalence of high cholesterol dropped from 86 percent to 59 percent, probably because of drugs, the study found.

But again, most patients on cholesterol drugs weren't achieving the target, either because they were on the wrong dose or because they weren't taking their pills properly, the researchers said.

Cohen urged the medical community to do more to motivate those with heart disease.

``They have faced the potential of their own mortality and there's a window of opportunity for these individuals to be approached with advice about the lifestyle changes that need to be done,'' Cohen said.