Unhealthy Childhood Habits Raise Cardiovascular Risk in Adulthood

British Heart Foundation
British Heart Foundation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many children risk developing coronary heart disease (CHD) in later life unless their ‘shocking’ lifestyles are improved, a charity has warned.

The British Heart Foundation said that inactivity, poor diet and unhealthy eating habits were storing up cardiovascular problems for the UKs population.

The charity has published a new compendium of statistics, produced in partnership with the British Heart Foundations Research Group at Oxford University. It is the first time that a supplement to the group’s regular statistics on heart disease has focused solely on children and young people.

For the report researchers analysed data from several UK surveys and included commonly measured medical risk factors, such as obesity and diabetes and behavioural risk factors for CHD associated with diet and lack of exercise. It said that while heart disease is rare in young people, many of the habits that led to heart disease in later life were acquired in childhood.

It found that fewer than one in five children in the UK eat the five portions of fruit and vegetables a day that the World health Organisation recommends should be the minimum. In England, nearly half (47%) of boys and over a third (36%) of girls aged 13 go without breakfast, ignoring advice about this meal’s importance.

The British Heart Foundation said that it was ‘staggering’ that 85% of girls and 73% of boys in England aged 13 admitted that they did not do even one hour’s physical activity a day.

The percentage of children who watched television for more than two hours on weekdays in England, Scotland and Wales was higher than for the US, Ireland and many other European countries. Around a quarter spent at least six hours on Saturdays and Sundays sitting down.

Simon Gillespie, the charity’s Chief Executive, says that the “shocking” habits were contributing to 30% of children under 16 in the UK being overweight or obese.

“These figures are a warning that many of our children are in grave danger of developing CHD in the future if they continue to live the same lifestyle,” he said.

In a foreword to the report, Peter Weissberg, the charity’s medical director, warned that the increasing incidence of obesity and diabetes among children could have a dramatic impact on cardiovascular disease in years to come. He also said that risk behaviours were often adopted in adolescence and it was a “constant battle” to prevent this happening.

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