Bad habits in kids sow seeds of heart attack

DUBAI — The seeds of a heart attack or stroke are sown at a very early age. Doctors have found that children as young as five years start getting fatty deposits in their coronary vessels that will ultimately develop into artherosclerosis.

By Hani M Bathish

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Published: Fri 24 Sep 2004, 11:12 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:47 PM

Experts stress that it is the bad habits we teach our children — be it eating habits or the lack of physical exercise — that places our children at risk of heart disease in later life.

World Heart Day, which falls on September 26 this year, is focusing on children, adolescents and heart disease, with educational activities organised targeting private and public school teachers and doctors in the UAE. The first of these events was a full day conference held Thursday at the Le Meridien Hotel, Airport Road, organised by the Emirates Cardiac Society. The conference focused on artherosclerosis in children and adolescents.

In the developing world, the Gulf region included, doctors are increasingly seeing heart attack patients in their mid-twenties, a trend set to increase as children today take up smoking at a younger age than ever before due to pear pressure and the large sums of money pumped into advertising by big tobacco companies. Statistically, 25 per cent of young smokers take up smoking before the age of ten.

Addressing members of the Press, Professor Najib Al Khaja, President of the Emirates Cardiac Society, said that it is an uphill struggle to fight against the influence of the tobacco and fast food industries and the massive multi-national corporations who pump incredible sums of money to ensure market access for their harmful products.

“We aim today to educate the teachers, to establish a group of teachers in each school who will spread the awareness message to other educators and to the children. In the past heart disease was viewed as a disease of old age, but today heart attack patients are getting younger. Prevention is our goal. Once someone starts smoking its hard to stop, thus it is much better not to start at all,” Prof. Al Khaja said.

Dr A. M. Yusufali, Consultant Cardiologist at Dubai Hospital, said that prevention is possible, pointing to the fact that 80 per cent of risk factors related to heart disease, diet, exercise and to stop smoking, are all modifiable risk factors. He said that in the Western countries fatalities from heart disease have gone down by 50 per cent as a result of a reduction in the number of smokers.

“This is the reason each year we send the same awareness message over and over again, this year we focus on children and teachers, in this mission the media plays a crucial role,” Dr Yusufali said.

Dr Jawad Al Lawati, Director of Non-Communicable Diseases at the Ministry of Health in Oman, who delivered a lecture at the conference, urged all the GCC countries to sign and ratify the WHO Convention on Tobacco Control.

“The only Gulf countries who have not signed the convention are Bahrain and Oman and the only country that has ratified the convention is Qatar, that was just a few days ago. The biggest risk factor for heart attack in the young is smoking, I have seen a heart disease patient as young as 27 years old.

The Global Youth Tobacco Survey has found that 30 per cent of boys smoke, while both think smoking makes them more attractive,” Dr Jawad said.

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