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For Heart Health -- Seeing Is Believing

FILE - A doctor checks a screen showing a graphical representation of a human heart. A new study suggests that patients who see their clogged arteries are more likely to make and keep a heart-healthy lifestyle.
For Heart Health -- Seeing Is Believing
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

When it comes to having a healthy body, seeing may be believing.

Experiments suggest that people who see detailed pictures of their clogged arteries may be more likely to stay healthy than people who do not.

The latest experiment was done in Sweden.

Researchers there studied just over 3,500 people. These individuals were between 40 and 60 years of age. Each person had at least one risk factor for heart disease, but no signs of the disorder.

The researchers divided these subjects into two groups.

One group received what was called usual care – like taking medicine or talking with health care workers about heart disease.

However, the members of the other group got to see pictures of their arteries. Researchers also gave them personalized guidance on why those pictures might be a sign of future health problems.

One year later, the people who saw the images of their own arteries had fewer risk factors for heart disease than those who did not see pictures.

The researchers reported their findings in The Lancet.

The lead writer of a report on the study was Ulf Naslund of Umea University. In an email to the Reuters news agency, he explained that the best ways to keep your arteries healthy is to follow a healthy lifestyle. He said that means do not smoke, drink less alcohol, eat healthy food, exercise and take the right medications to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure.

There are plenty of treatments, Naslund noted. That is not the problem. The problem, he said, is that people do not take steps to improve their condition or take their medicines.

That is where the “seeing” part may help.

Doctors warn that many people think they have healthy hearts but, actually, they do not.

Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, can be a silent killer. It takes many years to develop and patients may show no symptoms until the condition is severe and difficult to treat.

Because it is a silent killer, experts say patients only remember a small part of what their doctor tells them to do. Seeing a picture is much more effective. To use a popular English expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Each year around the world, about 17.9 million people die from some form of cardiovascular disease. That is 31% of all deaths worldwide. These numbers come from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are disorders of the heart and blood vessels. The WHO website published this advice about heart health:

  • Tobacco use, an unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
  • Exercising for at least 30 minutes every day of the week will help to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
  • Eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, and limiting your salt intake to less than one teaspoon a day, also helps to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo adapted this story from the Reuters news agency for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


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Words in This Story

clog v. to slowly form a block in (something, such as a pipe or street) so that things cannot move through quickly or easily

artery n. any of the tubular branching muscular- and elastic-walled vessels that carry blood from the heart through the body

factor n. something that helps produce or influence a result : one of the things that cause something to happen

cholesterol n. a steroid alcohol C27H45OH that is present in animal cells and body fluids, regulates membrane fluidity, and functions as a precursor molecule in various metabolic pathways and as a constituent of LDL may cause atherosclerosis

intaken. the amount of something (such as food or drink) that is taken into your body

teaspoon n. a unit of measure especially in cookery equal to ¹/₆ fluid ounce or ¹/₃ tablespoon (5 milliliters)