Eighteen walking trails have been built in Jerusalem neighborhoods during the last year and a half, and 32 more will be developed during the next year or two, Mayor Uri Lupolianski said on Tuesday night.
The mayor made his promise at the opening of the country's first hospital-based interdisciplinary center for the prevention of heart disease in high-risk adults and even children, at the capital's Shaare Zedek Medical Center. The walking trails will have water fountains along the way and be identified with special signs, said Lupolianski, adding that he would do what he could to increase public awareness of the need to live a healthful life to prevent heart disease and other conditions that result from physical inactivity, smoking, obesity and stress.
MK Zevulun Orlev (NU/NRP) - himself a "graduate" of the hospital's cardiology department, where he underwent catheterization and heart rehabilitation some years ago - said his life had been turned around by learning how to live right. He had lost weight, gotten into the habit of exercising and adopted other healthful habits, he said - but he still had not found a way to reduce stress, he joked, "because this government annoys me."
Orlev said he would start a lobby in the Knesset to add preventive care for reducing the rate of heart disease in at-risk people to the national basket of health services, even though nearly all the basket's components are for treatment of disease rather than prevention.
The center was established after over a decade of effort by Dr. Jacob Klein, a leading cardiologist and founder and director of Shaare Zedek's cardiac rehabilitation center, who yearned for a comprehensive center where people of all ages could get diagnosed for risk factors and then minimize them. It is located on the 10th floor of the hospital and includes over a dozen staffers in the field of cardiology, exercise, nutrition, physiology, smoking cessation and social work.
Prof. Dan Tzivoni, chairman of the medical center's cardiological services and outgoing head of the Israel Cardiology Society, told an audience of some 200 that just 30 minutes of vigorous walking a day can halve the mortality rate of people at risk for heart disease and those who have already had a cardiac event.
"There is no drug more effective for preventing heart attacks than regular exercise," he declared.
The new center charges NIS 450 per month for its multiple services - much lower, said Klein, than gyms. He said he hoped the government would recognize that it could save billions of shekels spent today in the treatment of heart disease, stroke and other widespread disorders.