February 5, 2007
While millions of people enjoyed snacks that ranged from
heart healthy vegetables to unhealthy fried foods of all
sorts this past Sunday [February 4, 2007], many who were
watching the Superbowl were able to see a commercial about
"[T]he ad, titled 'Heart Attack,' carries its cautionary
message lightly. A man dressed like a big, red,
briefcase-toting 'heart' is walking down the street when
he's kidnapped by such villainous black-leathered risk
factors as high blood pressure, diabetes, weight problems
and high cholesterol. They beat him up in an alley. 'Is
your heart at risk of an attack?' the narrator says in
directing viewers to the Web site
http://www.beatyourrisk.com for a six-question quiz on the
chances of a heart attack or stroke."
The actor playing the role of the "heart" in the ad appears
to be a white man with graying hair (a picture is available
at the above site).
"Staying away from high-fat, high-cholesterol foods isn't
just a warning for adults to heed. A new study of
teen-agers found one-third of them had increased their
heart disease risk factors with junk food diets that could
lead to high blood pressure and clogged arteries as they
grow older. ... More than 80 percent of them consumed
higher than recommended levels of total and saturated fat,
while dietary cholesterol was excessive in 49 percent.
Cholesterol levels were considered abnormally high for the
age in one-third of the participants, and approximately one
in 10 had systolic hypertension, a form of high blood
Ten percent (1 in 10) of the teens had already developed a
form of high blood pressure....
While teens are often warned to watch what they eat and
take care of their bodies to avoid potential health
problems later in life, more and more the health problems
are not waiting until later in life to develop, and the
damage to their bodies is observable now.
"To compare high-risk teens with their healthy
counterparts, researchers used ultrasound to measure the
thickness of the neck's primary artery, the carotid artery.
Teens with the thickest artery walls were likely to be
those who were overweight or had high blood pressure or
Other diseases that used to be seen only in adults are now
becoming more common in teens -- and even in children.
"Type 2 diabetes used to occur mainly in adults who were
overweight and ages 40 and older. Now, as more children and
adolescents in the United States become overweight and
inactive, type 2 diabetes is occurring more often in young
people. Type 2 diabetes is more common in certain racial
and ethnic groups such as African Americans, American
Indians, Hispanic/Latino Americans, and some Asian and
Pacific Islander Americans. The increased incidence of type
2 diabetes in youth is a 'first consequence' of the obesity
epidemic among young people, a significant and growing
public health problem. Overweight children are at increased
risk for developing type 2 diabetes during childhood,
adolescence, and later in life."
It used to be that children and teens were only immediately
affected by the heart health issues with which they were
"A congenital heart defect is a structural problem (or
defect) in the heart that is present at birth. A baby's
heart begins to develop shortly after conception. During
development, structural defects can occur. These defects
can involve the walls of the heart, the valves of the
heart, and the arteries and veins near the heart.
Congenital heart defects can disrupt the normal flow of
blood through the heart. ... Congenital heart defect is the
most common type of major birth defect. Each year, more
than 30,000 babies in the United States are born with
congenital heart defects."
Thousands of children and teens have lives that are
affected by congenital heart defects. Thousands more are
living with preventable diseases that affect their hearts
on a daily basis.
"High blood pressure (hypertension) in children is not a
congenital heart disease, but it can have a hereditary
link. For that reason, children born into families with a
history of high blood pressure need to have their blood
pressure watched with special care. Most cases of high
blood pressure in children are usually the result of
another disease, like heart or kidney disease. This is
called secondary hypertension. Less often, children have
what is called primary (or essential) hypertension. This
means that the real cause of the high blood pressure is not
Heredity plays a role in heart disease risk factors, as do
lifestyle choices. Even if people do not develop high blood
pressure or type 2 diabetes in their childhood or teenage
years, they could still being damaging their health.
"There is compelling evidence that the atherosclerosis
(ath"er-o-skleh-RO'sis) (fatty deposits of plaque in artery
walls) or its precursors begins in childhood and progresses
slowly into adulthood. Then it often leads to coronary
heart disease, the single largest cause of death in the
Questions of the Week:
What do you need to know about your heart disease risk
factors as a teen? What do children and young adults need
to know? How does this compare with what older adults need
to know? What do you need to know about other health issues
that surround heart disease (high blood pressure, diabetes,
etc) -- and can damage the heart? What do your friends and
family members know about these health issues? What should
they know? What is the best way to educate people about
heart health issues -- and the lifestyle choices they
should be making with regards to these health issues?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions. 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