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Greek's Cardiovascular Health Affected

Tough times in Greece since the crisis emerged in 2008 have taken their toll on the cardiovascular health of Greek men and women, suggests two reports from one Athens center presented at the Heart Failure Congress 2014 of the European Society of Cardiology Heart Failure Association in Athens.


The effects seem to have hit women particularly hard, as well as men without health insurance coverage—which in Greece is covered by a mix of private and public funding and is in general tied to employment.

The analyses show that hospital admissions for acute Myocardial Infraction (MI) and atrial fibrillation (AF) had gone up sharply in 2008–2012, which the reports call the economic "crisis period," compared with the pre-crisis period of 2003–2007. It was in 2008 that Greece's unemployment rate started a steep climb, conditions that have little improved to this day.

"We saw that women, in general, had more heart attacks during the crisis period," Dr Dimitra Papadimitriou (Elpis General Hospital, Athens, Greece), says lead author of the MI part of the analysis. "And a subgroup, women younger than 45 years, had a significant increase in acute-MI rates. We assume [this means] that the stress that comes from unemployment and lower quality of life is so strong it can possibly counterbalance the beneficial effects of estrogens that women have during reproductive age, when they're protected against heart attack."

And with fewer people employed or able to afford health coverage, many more people in the crisis period compared with before are presenting to emergency rooms with acute MI without coverage, she said. "This is possibly a reflection of the fact that we have a bigger subgroup of patients without social insurance in the general population, and it's only natural that we find more acute MIs in this subgroup, which is now larger."

There's abundant literature linking rising rates of MI and other potentially stress-related disorders to population wide anxiety stemming from natural disasters or wars or other extreme violence, Dr Alexio Samentzas (Elpis General Hospital, Athens, Greece), who led the AF part of the analyses, explains.

There are also other studies associating cardiovascular events with a bad economy. The current analyses, he said, add to that evidence base by suggesting years of wage reductions, rising unemployment, and hits to national self-esteem may be stressing Greek adults to the point that they are experiencing more MIs and AF, often without the resources to pay for care.