Physical therapy expertise could cut heart deaths

The profession of physical therapy (known as physiotherapy in many countries) is uniquely qualified to have an impact on the growing global epidemic of diseases related to obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, according to Marilyn Moffat, Professor at New York University and President of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy.  There is an explosion of lifestyle-related diseases (sometimes referred to as “diseases of civilisation”) – obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure – around the world. Being overweight, or having an unhealthy diet, is itself a risk factor for all these conditions. Around 180 million people worldwide have diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke account for 29% of the world’s deaths. These conditions can often be prevented and treated with exercise, and physical therapists – as the health professionals with most expertise in prescribing exercise for health – can significantly reduce the global burden of illness and death brought by the diseases. “Exercise, particularly aerobic conditioning and strength training, is a key intervention to prevent obesity, and death and disability from cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” says Marilyn Moffat. “Physical therapists are experts in prescribing these as part of a structured, safe and effective programme. For those already affected by cardiovascular disease and diabetes, physical therapists can help bring a return to work, education, community participation and fulfilled lives.”

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