Generally, heart disease campaigns do not target children as the perceived assumption is that they are not a risk, but Senior Medical Officer at New Crystal Health Centre, Dr Micheal Ohene Tawiah Akonor says that notion is completely wrong.
He believes that a number of factors expose children to heart diseases and they should be tackled early in life to avoid future complications.
According to Dr Akonor, cardiovascular disease in children may not necessarily occur as a result of risk factors such as hypertension, high blood cholesterol or diabetes as is the case in adults.
He said failure to properly manage medical conditions like tonsillitis and acute conditions of the kidney in children can result in auto immune reactions in the body which can then lead to heart problems.
Also, the risk for cardiovascular disease he said, can begin before birth during foetal development, and increase further during childhood with exposure to unhealthy diets, lack of exercise and smoking.
Additionally modern society can expose children to risk factors such as diets with too few calories, diets high in fats and sugar and activities such as computer games that discourage physical activity, the senior medical officer explained.
Dr Akonor who is also the Director of the Tema Branch of New Crystal Health Services, a private medical facility, revealed that the number of heart disease cases that he sees on a daily basis is alarming and especially because of the patients' age bracket. He said it is young people in their twenties and as such it raises questions about the quality of their lives when they turn seventy and above. His believes the sedentary lifestyles that people lead now are a major contributory factor.
He therefore stressed that it is imperative to adopt heart-healthy eating from childhood and through adulthood.
The medical doctor noted that the call by the World Heart Federation for individuals and parents to reduce their own and their family's risk of heart disease and stroke is in the right direction.
“This is because healthy children lead to healthy adults and healthy adults lead to health families and communities,” he said.
The Federation estimates that 17.3 million people die each year from heart related issues with 80% of this number being in the developing world.
It said the numbers are rising and sadly, one out of every three women who die, die out of heart related conditions. And in Ghana, it is believed to be the highest cause of death in women and children.
Dr Akonor was therefore particularly excited that the focus of this year's world heart day celebrations which falls on the 29th of September each year is on women and children. He said, the typical African woman is overweight and therefore stands the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
He therefore advised that they adopt heart healthy behaviours such as eating healthy diet, taking regular exercise and avoiding tobacco use. He says this way, their risk of being affected by cardiovascular disease can be controlled, treated or moderated.
The theme for this year is, “walking on the road to a healthy heart” and in Ghana, the Cardiothoracic Centre of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital has named Akumaa Mama Zimbi and Dr Joyce Aryeh as ambassadors for the 2013 edition of the day.
The belief is that they would be able to influence as many women as possible to adopt healthy lifestyles and live longer for the benefit of their families and society.