Startling reduction in Heart Attack Deaths in Wartime Norway
This is a fascinating case study that brings relevant evidence pertinent to heart disease directly to the forefront. It should serve as a convincing argument about why people suffer from heart attacks, and also act as a guide on how to avoid them, which is the primary reason that the ‘Lower Blood Pressure’ website exists.
The unlikely connection with the quiet, peaceful and prosperous country of Norway is probably an unlikely place to look for heart disease statistics. Nevertheless some valuable data was obtained as a side effect of the occupation of this small nation by the invading army from Nazi Germany in the 1940’s.
Prior to the outbreak of World War 2 the Norwegian population enjoyed a high standard of living, including good nutrition – a relatively rich diet of food and drink compared with many other European countries. Unfortunately, the prosperous citizens of this tiny Scandinavian country also suffered from a high mortality rate from heart attacks and heart disease related illness.
During the occupation years, however, there was a sharp fall in the number of recorded deaths from heart attacks and other diseases of the cardiovascular system. Even more surprising was the observed reduction in the number of instances of blood clotting (thrombosis) in hospital patients recovering from surgery, due to the lack of physical activity during the post-operative sedentary period.
What could be the reason for this reduction in heart disease ?
The simple answer is that during the Nazi occupation of their country, the Norwegian people faced hardships that were previously unknown to them. This consisted of a cumulative series of denials of many of the unhealthy practices that we currently indulge in our daily lives in 2012.
This included the following :-
- Drastic reduction in smoking due to shortage of supply of cigarettes and tobacco
- Forced labor by the occupying army resulting in increased daily physical activity
- Reduced intake of Meat and Dairy Produce – much of this was exported back to Germany
- Massive increase in fish consumption – reliance on locally caught fish due to the shortage of beef, cheese and milk
The result of this forced change of lifestyle was that the majority of the population lost some weight, lowered their blood cholesterol level, became more physically fit, stopped smoking and lowered their blood pressure. Consequently, despite increasing stress levels due to the pressures on daily life imposed by the occupying forces of the invading army, the overall heart health of the people increased !!
As if this wasn’t proof enough, we need to now look at what happened during the years following the end of the War. This is quite shocking. Within two short years, with the abundance of rich foods and tobacco, and despite a reduction in stress levels associated with daily living, the heart attack and stroke death rates were once again back at the pre-war levels.
Despite the glaring and uncontrovertible evidence that was available to the medical authorities from this wartime data, it would not be for another three decades until the world finally woke up to the inescapable correlation between diet, smoking exercise and heart disease.
It should serve as a valuable lesson to us all that we CAN make a difference to our own heart health, once we accept the undeniable facts, and it only takes a relatively short time (within a year or two) to begin to lower our risk of suffering from a heart attack.