Cardiovascular diseases cause more than 31,000 deaths every year in Portugal. In addition, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report claims that 8.6 per cent of all Portuguese adults have diabetes.
The organisation also claims that around 44.2 per cent of the population (19.7 per cent of those are women) are regular smokers, and doctors cite the consumption of tobacco as one of the biggest factors in these cardiovascular problems. The details form part of the new ‘Study of Cardiovascular Illnesses’ released last week in Geneva by the organisation. The report highlights the fact that cardiovascular illnesses cause a third of all deaths in the world – 17 million last year. Around 75 per cent of the deaths continue to occur in developed countries, in spite of mounting evidence pointing to risk factors such as obesity and poor diet. The study notes that Portuguese teenagers have the highest obesity levels of any European nation – 6.7 per cent. In the case of 15-year-old boys, the rate of Portuguese obesity is even higher (6.8 per cent), but this is the second highest figure, after Greece, where the rate is 10.8 per cent.
In a further study presented in Lisbon this week by endocrinologist Dra Isabel do Carmo, it was reported that six out of 10 Portuguese people are obese. Research was conducted between January 2003 and June this year, with the objective of discovering the number of Portuguese who are overweight or obese. The study included both sexes and all age groups. The somewhat disturbing results were announced at a presentation at the Faculdade de Motricidade Humana in the capital, at which the project’s seven researchers were present, as well as two patients.
The problem of teenage obesity is preoccupying Portuguese doctors, with various people blaming a sedentary lifestyle and a move away from a southern European diet, traditionally rich in olive oil, to fast food. Doctor Zawasky, from the Cascais International Health Clinic, pinpoints deterioration in diet: “Part of it is certainly the poor quality of food,” he commented. “The size of portions in fast food restaurants has increased and they have become very good at teaching you the power of suggestion – encouraging you to have an extra helping of apple pie or a super-sized meal.” He also cites the increase in the playing of video games as a contributor to this problem. “Smoking used to be the number one cause of disease in America, now it is obesity, and this trend seems to be picking up here in Portugal also. People are eating more fast food and now children’s health is becoming affected by this.”