Rising Heart Problems Among School Children Linked to Junk Food Consumption, Doctors Warn
Doctors highlight the impact of increased junk food consumption and sedentary lifestyles on heart health among school children-
Increased consumption of junk foods and less physical activity is the main reason why school children are seeing a spike in heart attacks, said doctors here on Monday.
Several recent media reports have shown kids as young as 10-year-olds dying due to heart attacks.
"Fast food culture is growing up in our country as a whole, which I believe is the main reason behind such conditions," Dr Neeraj Aggarwal, a paediatric cardiologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told IANS.
"The number of heart attacks in children is not very high. But, due to increased obesity and sedentary lifestyles, the risk of suffering from a heart attack has spiked," added Dr Amit Misri, Associate Director, Pediatrics Cardiology, Paediatrics, Medanta, Gurugram
The doctors lamented the drastic change in children's lifestyles -- children prefer playing online games instead of engaging in physical activity. They tend to take the elevator rather than the stairs.
They consume food from outside instead of home food which is balanced. Their food choices veer towards those which contain carbohydrates and fats - all providing the child energy which/he is not physically expending.
So, all these leads to obesity which increases the risk and possible incidence of heart attacks, Dr Misri said.
Dr Aggarwal said bad lifestyle is causing tiredness, high blood pressure as well as diabetes among the kids, all which are again risk factors for heart attacks.
Numerous studies have documented the ill effects of consumption of ultra processed foods which have a high and sugar salt content.
In addition the health experts also mentioned congenital problems in some kids, which can lead to sudden cardiac death in patients.
"These patients are prone to having arrhythmias which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Of late we have seen that the children who were diagnosed with Covid also might have a small risk of blocked coronary arteries which over a period of time can cause cardiac death," Dr Misri told IANS.
Secondary infections like Covid, dengue and malaria all can increase risk for heart failure in children as they cause damage to the heart muscle, said Dr Aggarwal.
Apart from that there are some genetic or syndrome disorders. Like the Marfan syndrome whereby the arteries of the body are dilated, and they have a propensity to suddenly rupture which can be a cause of sudden cardiac death.
Substance abuse by teenagers, the use of supplements when using the gym, dieting and exercising to extremes - these can also cause heart attacks.
How can we prevent this?
A lifestyle change with proper exercise, balanced food which is less on sugars, carbohydrates, fats, more of protein intake of fresh fruits or home-cooked is of utmost importance, the health experts noted.
Children should be encouraged to engage in physical activities for 30 minutes to one hour daily. These include sports like swimming, cycling, any sort of activity that increases the output or consumes more of energy that is first.
Dr Aggarwal said that besides parents, school and teachers can also play a significant role in helping children cut down on sedentary lifestyle and inculcate healthy habits
"School plays a major role, it can restrict junk food in its canteens. Avoid junk food. Even a healthy looking juice is loaded with sugars. Foods high in carbohydrate; maggi, cold drinks, shouldn't be allowed in school canteens," he said.
Teachers should also be educated and made aware of the harm of eating unhealthy foods, who can then in turn educate children, the doctor said.