February 10, 2003
"The normal heart is
a strong, muscular pump a little larger than a fist. It pumps blood
continuously through the circulatory system. Each day the average
heart "beats" (or expands and contracts) 100,000 times and
about 2,000 gallons of blood." http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=770
"February is all about
hearts . . . and we don't mean just the paper or candy kind that show
up around Valentine's Day. This month is American Heart Month, a time
to learn about keeping your heart and cardiovascular system in tip-top
shape. You may think that because you're young you don't need to think
about problems like heart attacks and high blood pressure. But the
choices you make today - such as deciding to eat a good diet and get
regular exercise - can help you stay healthy years from now. To find
out how to treat your heart right, you can start with these articles:..."
Okay, so maybe heart disease
doesn't show itself for years, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist
in kids and teens.
"...we should be concerned
with kids' cholesterol levels for a couple of reasons. First, we have
a pretty good idea of what the precursors of full-blown atherosclerosis
disease are. A blocked coronary artery doesn't appear overnight. There
are early indicators, what are generally called fatty streaks. If
you take the aorta or other fat, you'll see stained areas that show
this fat. Eventually it can progress further; by the mid-20s some
people will show more than just fatty streaks or even atherosclerosis....A
number of other studies based on autopsy findings, some in very young
kids, also support the idea that atherosclerosis begins early in life.
The lesions begin fairly early and then progress. But most people
won't have a heart attack early. It's in midlife when the clinical
signs of blocked coronary arteries became apparent. Unfortunately,
the first clinical sign could be a fatal or nonfatal heart attack.
Thus, even though people don't have heart attacks when they are young,
atherosclerosis may be developing during this period."
So what does all this mean
to someone who is 10? 15? 20? One could argue that habits (eating,
exercise, etc.) started at early ages are likely to stay with you
when the consequences of heart disease begin to become more real.
One could argue that it is difficult to later undo damage that is
being done at an early age. One could also argue that heart disease
takes decades to develop, and there more immediate things that children
and teens have to deal with every day.
Questions of the Week:
Since there are often no noticeable signs of heart disease in young
people, why would heart disease be something that young people should
be thinking about? When should the risks of heart disease start being
considered while people (young and old) are making lifestyle choices?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum