Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Mildly obese teens at greater risk of heart failure

This week I came across a Swedish study that found men who were even mildly overweight around age 18, were more likely to develop cardiomyopathy in adulthood.

Cardiomyopathy is an uncommon heart muscle condition that can cause heart failure.

This study wasn’t just thrown together. It was carried out between 1969 and 2005, focusing on 1,668,893 men who enlisted in compulsory military service, and who were examined on height, weight and overall fitness.

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The researchers then used two other national databases that track the causes of all hospitalisations and deaths in Sweden to determine whether the men had serious heart disease as they aged, and followed them for up to 46 years.

Among the men in the study, 4,477 were diagnosed with cardiomyopathy at an average age of 45.5 years. The men who were lean at age 18 – with a body mass index (BMI) below 20 – had a low risk of cardiomyopathy.

However, that risk steadily increased as weight increased, even among men on the high end of a normal BMI (22.5-25).

In the study, men who had a BMI of 35 and over in their youth, were eight times more likely to develop dilated cardiomyopathy as adults compared to men who were lean in their youth.

The findings may or may not translate to women. The data on weight was gathered when males in Sweden registered for compulsory military service. Since women do not register for military service, data on women’s weight at around age 18 was not available to the researchers.

This is just one study among thousands that show a direct relationship between overweight teenagers and adult health problems. This is reality. We live in a world where we won’t grow out of our poor eating habits. There is so much choice, accessibility and low prices for unhealthy foods.

Add on top of this, the millions on advertising that these companies are spending each year to sell your child their high sugar products. Deep down the majority of these multi-million-pound businesses don’t care.

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We have to accept that unfortunately these businesses are not going to stop, so it’s up to us to help educate our children. Here are a few points to consider.

Talk to your child
Speak to your child and first ask them why they enjoy the sugary food and drinks they consume. The next part is to explain the risks that it leads to. Tell them that you don’t want them to cut it out of their life, but just make better choices.
If you go in demanding that they stop eating this or drinking that, then they are going to rebel and probably consume more. Sitting down and educating them on the risks will give your child all the information they need to make a choice for themselves.

Lead by example
Explaining all the health risks and not following your own advice is one sure way your child will keep consuming high sugary foods. Make a pledge together that both of you will cut back or cut out high sugary foods. Maybe chose a day where you both go off together and make it a social event.

Don’t bring it into the house
The next time you are out shopping have a think about what you are bringing back to the house. Just because it’s on offer doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
The extra value bag of crisps or biscuits is still extra sugary foods you are bringing back for you and your family to consume.
This is your choice and the example that you are setting for your kids.
Once they go off to college or move out what habits do you think they will take with them? Mum or Dad always bought the value packs so I will as well.

Make it better
Cutting back on high sugary foods and replacing them with better options is one way forward. Explore with your child, different types of foods during meals and snack times. Giving them a wide variety of healthy foods will increase their chances of choosing a better option.
The important thing to remember is not to make huge lifestyle changes or information overkill for yourself and your child. Making small consistent changes will have a positive effect on your lifelong healthy active lifestyle.

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