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Polypill Good, But Don't Neglect Diet/Exercise

Media release 1 July, 2003

Good diet and exercise still best

The Polypill is great news, says Dr Tony McGhie of HortResearch. "But don't neglect good diet and exercise."

While the Polypill represents a huge advance for those suffering, or at risk, from cardiovascular disease, Dr McGhie points out that other choices can provide substantial protection from both stroke and heart disease.

At a recent conference 'Diet and Optimum Health', Portland, USA (June, 2003), Dr Walter Willett, Harvard Medical School, claimed that adopting a number of lifestyle options would reduce heart disease by 80 percent in the US population.

These choices involve:

Consumption of more than five serving a day of fruit and vegetable - the more the better.

Eat more, at least one fish meal a week, for omege-3 fats.

Avoid consuming saturated fats, instead consume moderate amounts of vegetable oils such as olive, canola and avocado which contain monounsaturated fats.

Quit smoking.

Balance energy intake with regular physical activity and avoid energy rich foods.

These recommendations have come from the study of tens of thousands of individuals over a 20-year period conducted by Dr Willett and others.

Whereas the Polypill is an excellent method for controlling disease, prevention by the right diet and exercise options should remain the primary method for avoiding heart disease. There is a danger that reliance on Polypill might result in a perception that heart disease can be fixed, and so lead to poor dietary and exercise options. Prevention through lifestyle is the best option.

"There are two main reasons for adopting lifestyle options for the prevention of heart disease and stroke," Dr McGhie said. "One is that dietary choice and exercise have proven effectiveness for preventing the development of cardiovascular disease for the majority of people. The other is that cardiovascular disease should not be viewed in isolation. Dietary choices have substantial effects on other major diseases, for example increased fruit and vegetables are known to reduce the risk of many forms of cancer."

The Polypill has been promoted as having benefits that will largely prevent heart attacks and strokes and it is expected to be available in New Zealanders in a few years. It contains a combination of proven components for the effective prevention of cardiovascular disease.

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