UEFA is giving its support to the World Heart Federation (WHF) and its World Heart Day on Sunday – and one focal point of the campaign is how physical activity, especially walking, can help nurture a healthy lifestyle and prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The World Heart Federation is one of UEFA's long-standing core social responsibility partners, and World Heart Day is celebrated on 29 September each year. The day is dedicated to raising global awareness about heart disease and stroke. The WHF created World Heart Day in 2000 to inform people worldwide that heart disease and stroke are the world's leading cause of death, and to encourage people to take action to improve their heart health.
A major theme of 2013 World Heart Day is to emphasise the importance of a life-course approach to the prevention and control of CVD, with a focus on women and children, who are as vulnerable as men to heart disease and stroke. The objective is to educate and advise women about their risk of heart disease, and inspire them to take measures to protect themselves, as well as their family, through adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle.
In addition, it is felt that modern society, and city living in particular, can heighten children's risk of heart disease and stroke through exposure to factors such as lack of physical activity, an unhealthy diet and tobacco smoke – hence the need to protect future generations against heart-related illnesses.
During this year's World Heart Day, WHF member organisations and partners are organising a variety of activities worldwide, such as public talks and screenings, walks and runs, seminars and sporting events. Another crucial theme for the day will be to 'Take the road to a healthy heart' – spurring people to increase physical activity, especially walking, and sports participation.
The WHF and international healthcare group Bupa are joining forces on World Heart Day to launch a global walking challenge, Ground Miles, with a global target of walking five million miles (eight million kilometres). The challenge – being laid to down to individuals, families and communities – will also allow people the opportunity to download a Ground Miles app to calculate the distance they walk.
"We want to get people around the world walking, to reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke," said WHF CEO Johanna Ralston. "Our goal is to encourage people to collectively walk five million miles by the end of this year."
The WHF says that walking, particularly, is one of the least expensive and most broadly accessible forms of physical activity on the planet. By achieving the recommended goal of a minimum 30 minutes a day, five times a week of moderate exercise, people can boost life expectancy and cut the risk of CVD. "Your feet can carry your heart very far in life," says WHF president Dr Srinath Reddy.
UEFA emphasises through its backing for World Heart Day that there can be no better way to prevent cardiovascular diseases than by playing football – a sport which is open to everyone.
Football has tremendous power and influence, and can shape the attitudes and behaviour that affect health. Accessible to all, the game makes an enormous contribution to the physical and mental well-being of young people across the globe.
During the summer, UEFA and the World Heart Federation teamed up at UEFA Women's EURO 2013 for the Make A Healthy Heart Your Goal campaign fronted by Sweden forward Lotta Schelin. The initiative urged women and girls to live an active lifestyle and practise sports such as football to help diminish the threat of heart disease and strokes.
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