Free cholesterol and glucose tests and blood pressure readings will be offered by the Malta Heart Foundation at a public event in City Gate, Valletta, tomorrow to mark World Heart Day, which falls on Sunday.

At the Valletta event, the foundation will lay stress on obesity and the negative effects this has on the heart.

Over one billion adults worldwide are overweight. About 150 million adults in the European region of the World Health Organisation will be obese by 2010, which brings the growing problem to epidemic proportions. This called for stakeholders to unite in the commitment to reverse trends leading to overweight issues which unless tackled would give rise to cardiovascular disease, among others, consultant cardiologist Mariosa Xuereb said.

"There are serious health implications associated with obesity, which plays a major role in cardiac disease and premature death," Dr Xuereb explained. "Persons afflicted with excess weight follow a trend that includes high-calorie food, a high proportion of saturated fats and sugars, low consumption of fruits and vegetables and reduced physical activity. Two-thirds of European adults are in fact not physically active enough. The government, the food industry, schools, healthcare professionals and overweight individuals ought to come together with a holistic strategy that encourages dietary intervention, increase in exercise, behavioural strategies, and medication or, in extreme cases, surgery."

Monica Abdilla, country manager for GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, manufacturers of weight-loss aid alli, a main supporter of the Malta Heart Foundation, said that although alli was no magic bullet it offered a clinically-proven way to help people lose weight through a holistic programme of low-fat food and regular exercise. "Modest weight loss provides important benefits and all-round support can increase the success rate of patients wishing to lose weight," she said.

The manufacturers say that the weight-loss aid works by stopping some of the fat eaten from being absorbed into the body in such a way that for every two kilos lost through a reduced, low-calorie diet, users lose an extra kilo. The aid is the first, and only, EU-licensed, clinically-proven weight-loss aid available in Malta without prescription.

Representatives of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare will be providing free advice on personalised weight management at City Gate tomorrow from 9.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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