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23.05.2007 Commentary

How To Be Strong At Heart

Nana's mother suddenly collapsed while preparing the family's evening meal. Even though she was only 40 years old she had suffered a heart attack. Nana heard the news when he came back from school.

The next day, he stopped by the hospital to visit her. On his way out, he met Dr Emily Adjetey, a family friend and a Cardiologist who had been checking on his mother, in the hall.

"Is she going to be okay?" Nana asked the doctor.

"I think so but she needs to change her lifestyle".

"She'll have to lose weight, start exercising and eat healthier." Dr Adjetey sighed. Then she gave Nana a long hard look.

"What?" Nana asked. He was confused. Why was the doctor looking at him like that?

"It wouldn't hurt you to do the same, Nana. You've also put on too much weight. That puts you at risk and your family history doesn't help."

"At risk of what?" Nana protested. "I'm only 16 years."

"Heart diseases - not yet, but in a few years". Do you have a family doctor?"

"Sort of," Nana said. "Dr Quist. I haven't seen him in a long time."

Cholesterol

"Is it okay with you if I give him a call? I'd like him to run some tests on you - cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. May be we can set up a programme to keep you healthy now than later”.

"Your health habits can help you avoid that," Dr Adjetey said sternly. She started to walk down the hall, but then turned back again.

"Nana, you don't smoke, do you?" she asked.

He shook his head. "I hate the smell."

For the first time, the doctor smiled.

Dr Adjetey wasn't just giving Nana a hard time. The global world now has a big problem with heart health, it's one of the major killers.

Teens the world over today are gaining weight about twice the rate their parents did at the same age. Young people are also developing Type 2 diabetes, a dangerous condition that used to be called "adult-onset" diabetes.

Today it affects teens and even children. Like heart diseases, it is linked to excess weight. And it can add to the likelihood of heart problems.

The ways to reduce your risk of getting heart diseases are pretty simple. First, if you're overweight, try to shed some off. The bottom line is to use more calories than you take in.

To do that, change the way you eat. Eat less and focus on foods that are healthy and low-fat. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, fish and poultry, and low or non-fat diary. Reduce taking sweets, white flour and fatty meats.

Becoming active will also help immensely. Find some physical activity that you like. Try to be active for at least 30 minutes or, even better, an hour most days of the week.

Kick that habit

If you smoke, stop. Smoking in your teens or 20s can cut the length of your life by a fourth! Quitting now can change that.

Other ways to cut your risk for heart diseases include lowering high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. For all of these, eating right, exercising and losing weight are key.

If you are obese and tried these suggestions and they didn't work for you, then it's time you saw a doctor for help.

Credit: Parade

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