Sunday September 30, 2012
Remember the children
CARDIOVASCULAR disease (CVD) can affect people of all ages, and the risk begins early in life through unhealthy diets, lack of physical activity, and exposure to tobacco.
In a statement published by the World Heart Federation, a new survey reveals that half of people surveyed incorrectly believe we should wait until age 30 or older before taking action to prevent heart disease and stroke.
Researchers from Oxford University have proved that obese and overweight children as young as five are showing signs they could be at risk of heart attacks and stroke later in life.
The authors of the study, published in the British Medical Journal recently, said if the risk factors continued into adulthood, obese children could be at 30% to 40% higher risk of stroke and heart disease than their normal-weight counterparts.
The fact is, heart disease has long been described as a global epidemic. According to the World Economic Forum, developing countries spend an average of US$500bil (RM1,500bil) annually to tackle cardiovascular and related diseases. Governments and private initiatives worldwide have repeatedly emphasised heart-healthy messages and implemented stringent healthcare regulations and policies.
This begs the question: what prompted WHO to project that 50% more people will die from heart disease in less than 20 years time? Shouldn’t the standards of healthcare be in tandem with the evolving progress of nations?
Maybe, there is something fundamentally wrong in all our approaches. Maybe all along, we have been only concentrating all our efforts on removing the problem, but never really going into the heart of the matter, i.e. the actual cause of it.
How many of us believe that adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle is reserved only for the “aged”? That you and your loved ones are “immune” from developing heart disease as long as you’re young?
This might be why heart disease is like an outbreak that cannot be contained. Research has proven that the first few stages of heart disease begin in childhood.
If we target to eliminate risk factors for heart disease from childhood, then according to the American Physician Study, the risk of a heart attack is reduced by 54%.
Sounds easy, no? Well, 17.1 million people still die annually from heart disease. This only means that the true significance of this linkage between risk factors in children and heart disease has failed to evolve into an epiphany. Children are the “lost” generation and are thoroughly drowned in the fallacy that heart attacks only occur to adults.
Not only that, heart disease campaigns have repeatedly targeted adults only.
Parents fit into the picture as well. They have much influence over what a child eats and does. However, many parents these days are too engrossed in the rat race, they neglect many other more significant matters, such as their family’s nutritional status.
Getting parents to play a part in eradicating heart disease in their children should be accorded paramount importance.
They should start by being role models for their children. Contrary to popular belief, leading a heart-healthy lifestyle will not cost you an arm or a leg. It is in fact affordable and within reach of most Malaysians. A bag of 10 apples from a hypermarket costs an average of RM8; a plate of spinach, sufficient to feed a family of four for one meal, costs only an average of RM2; half-dozen of Omega-3 eggs cost RM6; while a bowl of fibre-rich oats is approximately RM1.
Focus should also be given to exercise or leading a more active lifestyle. Have fun being active as a family. Instead of just going to shopping malls on the weekends, add a little variety (and more physical movement) to your routine.
Why not take long walks, go biking or swimming together? Encourage physical activities that your children will enjoy. They’re more likely to participate if they like what they’re doing. The key is to spend time together and give your hearts a good workout.
Mums and dads, do limit the time your children spend in front of the TV, the computer and playing video games. These habits lead to a sedentary lifestyle and encourages excessive snacking.
Finally, make it a point to go for a medical check-up together every year. Regular check-ups will help ensure that each member of your family is on the right track with his or her heart health.
So, make these steps a part of your lives today. By making the right choices and encouraging your spouse and children to do the same, you can look forward to many more happy, healthy and productive years ahead together.