The heart of the matter

Heart disease is a major health concern and the leading cause of death in many countries. Sadly, its roots can begin in childhood – and many adults, parents included, aren't aware of this.

Enjoy a heart healthy diet

Senior lady in a swimming pool

Research has shown that fat begins building up in the walls of the arteries very early on in childhood. Diet is key to reducing heart disease risk. Children need to eat a heart healthy diet – and health experts agree that anyone aged two and older should limit how much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol they eat and replace them by unsaturated fats, while adding more fruit and vegetables to their diets.

Making simple dietary changes can make a real difference in lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease. Choosing the right margarine spread, for example, is a great starting point:

When shopping for a margarine spread, read the nutrition facts panel to make sure the one you choose has a low level of saturated fat, no trans fat and no cholesterol.

Healthy options include products such as soft, spray or squeeze I Can’t Believe It's Not Butter spreads, Becel/Flora spreads, Rama/Blue band spreads and soft and squeeze varieties of Shedd's Spread Country Crock spreads that have no trans fats. These spreads also have less fat and calories than butter or regular margarine.

Don't smoke

Studies show that cigarette smoking among school children is on the rise. What they don't realise is that cigarette smoking can cause fat to build up in the arteries. Smoking also increases blood pressure, makes it harder for you to exercise, and increases the tendency for blood to clot.

Be physically active

Friday night at home watching films with popcorn is a great way to bring the family together, but why not get up on your feet and make it a bowling night? Inactivity increases the risk for developing a stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. In fact, not being physically active can contribute to heart disease risk as much as having high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure or smoking.

Avoid obesity

If you take all of these steps to heart, you can help reduce the likelihood of your child becoming obese, a condition that can also increase heart disease risk. Childhood obesity is on the rise – and obese children are more at risk for developing diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels than normal weight children.

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