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Eat Right: 5 lifestyle changes in kids’ diet to prevent heart attacks later

Sedentary lifestyle and eating junk food that leads to childhood obesity are the biggest enemy of a healthy heart



According to LocalCircles, a community social media platform, several cases have been reported in media just in the last three months where healthy, young and middle-aged individuals, both men and women have experienced a heart attack and died. In several of these cases, the individual was engaged in some physical activity like dance, gym, and walking.

The World Health Organization (WHO), India accounts for at least one-fifth of the 17.9 million cardiovascular disease-related deaths globally, especially in the younger generation. In 2016, 27 per cent of total deaths were attributed to Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs), according to a World Health Organization report.

Dr Jatinder Singh, child specialist and neonatologist & Professor at Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences, Jalandhar, whose son is a student of Apeejay School, Model Town in Jalandhar said: “Gone are the days when kids went out to play or did physical activity. Today, kids prefer to stay indoors and play video games. A sedentary lifestyle is our biggest enemy. Some habits are formed during school life. “Physical activity, eating a balanced diet and maintaining weight start when the child is in school. All kids love to eat junk food. These contain saturated fats. Of all the calories that the body needs, fat comprises 20-30 per cent. Of this, saturated fat should be less than 10 per cent. But this is not the case,” Dr Singh said.

Childhood obesity is a major cause of heart attacks among young people. “Parents must ensure that their child’s Body Mass Index should be between the 5th and 85th percentile on the CDC growth charts. Recent guidelines say that parents must get the cholesterol levels of their kids checked at ages 11 and 21,” Dr Singh said.

These regular check-ups, he said, will ensure a check on the junk food of the kid. The saturated fats in these products block the arteries. “Regular investigations in consultation with the paediatrician can ensure timely intervention,” Dr Singh said.

Diet to follow

1. Give kids walnuts, almonds and cashews.
2. If you are a non-vegetarian, include fish in the meals – twice a week.
3. Avoid red meat.
4. Add green leafy vegetables.
5. Kids must eat four-five portions of fruits daily.
6.  Encourage the child to go out and play.
7.  Do not give your kid junk food on a daily basis.
8. Avoid using oils that freeze at room temperature.

Dr Naeem Hasanfatta, consultant, Cardiologist at Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central said that heart attacks are occurring at a young age because of multiple factors. “First, right from the start, kids are exposed to junk low-quality fats and trans fats found in readymade foods. Second is childhood obesity due to a sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity. The third is the person’s surroundings like environmental pollution,” Dr Hasanfatta opined.

Where parents are going wrong?

Most parents are not giving their children enough time and opportunities for outdoor sports. This means that kids spend a lot of time either studying at home or playing video games and eating junk food.

“Parents need to provide an opportunity to children for outdoor sports along with schools rather than overburdening kids with homework. Activities like swimming, cycling and all other sports should be on a daily basis. Exposure to any kind of pollution should be avoided at all costs along with junk food with special attention to child obesity,” Dr Hasanfatta stressed.

Should kids be taken for regular check-ups?

Just like Dr Jatinder Singh, who recommended regular check-ups for kids as young as nine, Dr Hasanfatta also said a regular follow-up with a Paediatrician will ensure that the child does not develop issues like obesity. “If the paediatric specialist has a doubt regarding cardiac issues or if there is a history of CVDs in the family, the child may need to undergo specific tests,” Dr Hasanfatta said.

Lifestyle changes to incorporate

1.       Promote lots of physical activity and group sports.

2.       Avoid junk food.

3.      Eat a healthy diet that has proteins, carbs, vitamins, minerals, and fats.

Shalini is an Executive Editor with Apeejay Newsroom. With a PG Diploma in Business Management and Industrial Administration and an MA in Mass Communication, she was a former Associate Editor with News9live. She has worked on varied topics - from news-based to feature articles.