Friday, September 02, 2011

What Is the Link Between Westernization and Heart Disease?

As a result of ‘Westernization’, the number of South Koreans with multiple risk factors for heart disease and diabetes has steadily increased. Westernization is the conversation to or adoption of western cultures including technology, politics, economics, lifestyle, diet, language and values.

A study published online on April 19, 2011 in the journal ‘Diabetes Care’ reported that one-third of Korean adults have risk factors associated with diabetes and heart disease. Since the late-1990s, Korea has become more westernized. Researchers from Gil Medical Center in Incheon intended to look at Korea's changing rate of metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors for Type-2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Based on a periodic government health study on Korean adults aged 20 and above, the researchers found that 25 percent of Korean adults had metabolic syndrome in 1998. But by 2007, the figure had risen beyond 31 percent, which was closed to the rate of 34 percent seen in the United States at that time.

Such hike was seen amid a period of fast economic growth in Korea, together with the adoption of the less-than-healthy lifestyle often accompanying with it. Korean are eating more ‘Western’ food, watching more TV and having less exercise than a decade ago.

This is not the first study to link Westernization to health problems in Asian countries undergoing rapid economic growth. A recent study in urban Indian also found steadily increasing rate of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes among young adults who were followed for 7 years. The researchers who conducted the study accused declining levels of physical activity and high smoking rate as the culprits for causing such health problems.

Meanwhile, several other recent studies in South and Southeastern Asia have also highlighted heart disease and diabetes as growing problems. A World Bank study on India and other South Asian countries had warned that people in the region get their first heart attack at the age of 53, which is 6 years earlier than people anywhere else.

To prevent from ending up with such health problems, people must change their lifestyle. For instance, they should perform regular exercise and adopt a healthy diet with low sodium (salt), carbohydrates and fat.

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