Sat, Sep 25, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Hearty diets are posing a cardiac threat to children

SUPER SIZE ME Activists attributed the widening tummies of children to 'Westernization,' while the deputy mayor pointed the finger at Bill Clinton

BY Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Unhealthy lifestyles are threatening the hearts of the nation's children, the Taiwan Society of Cardiology warned at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

A person dies of a heart attack every 45 minutes in Taiwan, the group said. A more disturbing fact, however, is that children and teenagers are increasingly vulnerable to suffering heart disease and strokes in their later years because of growing consumption of fast food and tobacco, a lack of exercise and exposure to second-hand smoke.

"As Taiwan rides on the wave of Westernization, teenage eating habits and lifestyles are making them potential victims of heart disorders," society president Lee Yuan-teh (李源德) said.

Lee cited World Heart Federation research, which reported that overweight children are three to five times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke before they reach the age of 65.

In Taiwan, obesity has made inroads among school-age children. A 2001 report from National Taiwan Normal University showed that 40 percent of boys and 25 percent of girls between the ages of six and six-and-a-half in Taipei City are overweight.

"In view of the amount of fast food that teenagers consume," said Taipei Deputy Mayor Yeh Chin-chuan (葉金川), "they will probably need heart bypass surgery by the age of 40."

Yeh also said that former US president Bill Clinton had just had heart bypass surgery and that he was representative of the problem.

Tobacco also threatens the health of children. The World Heart Federation estimated that globally, nearly 25 percent of all students smoke, having lit their first cigarette before the age of 10. The situation is made worse because almost half of all children worldwide live in the home of a smoker and are subjected to second-hand smoke.

"Children exposed to second-hand smoke have a 25 percent-greater risk of developing both lung cancer and heart disease and an 80 percent-greater risk of suffering a stroke," Lee quoted the federation's report as saying.

Backing the federation's campaign to prevent heart attacks and strokes, the society will hold a balanced-diet competition for teenagers and fitness training sessions for the general public at the 228 Peace Park Memorial Hall tomorrow morning, the fifth annual World Heart Day.

"Increasing the amount of physical activity is an immediate priority as children are lax about their health," society secretary-general Hsu Tsui-lieh (徐粹烈) said.

"Our goal is to increase awareness of the threat of heart disease and stroke and the importance of a heart-friendly lifestyle," Hsu said. "That way children and adolescents can live better lives and live longer."

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