As bad as smoking is for your health, getting fat may be even worse for it, at least when it comes to heart disease or stroke. In a report released Thursday, the Geneva-based World Heart Federation says obesity may soon be responsible for more deaths from heart disease and stroke than tobacco smoking. The federation is urging people around the world to adopt healthier lifestyles.

The World Heart Federation says an estimated 17 million people around the world die each year from heart disease and stroke. Research shows that the most common obesity-related conditions heart disease, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and cholesterol are key contributors to these deaths.

The chief executive officer of the World Heart Federation, Janet Voute says the obesity epidemic is not just a problem in affluent countries. She says more and more people in developing countries are moving to cities, and, once there, adopt a lifestyle that is much less healthy. "You will see, for example, a reduction in physical activity as people begin to earn salaries," she said. "They shift from walking or riding bicycles to getting their first motorized vehicle. You see a shift in the diets from a traditional diet to a non-traditional diet with more fatty foods and less fruit and vegetables. "

The World Heart Federation says it is particularly concerned that obesity is increasing among children, primarily because they are exercising less and eating more junk food (food that has no nutritional value.) The federation cites a recent study that shows one in five children of school age in Beijing are obese. And another survey in Mexico shows children consume excessive quantities of soft drinks and high-fat snacks.

As part of its campaign against obesity, the federation is urging governments to promote healthy lifestyles, beginning in schools and carrying on into the workplace. It says a recipe for good health includes regular physical exercise and a diet rich with fruits, vegetables, grains and low fat foods.