A heart-healthy lifestyle is found missing in 9 out of 10 children from Punjab and Delhi, observes Dr Rajneesh Kapoor, a Punjab Rattan awardee and vice-chairman of interventional cardiology at Medanta Hospital.
Dr Kapoor is the principal investigator of a study which has examined 3,200 children in the age group of 5 to 18 years through a questionnaire-based assessment on parameters that affect cardiovascular health.
The intent of the study
The study aims to study the connection, if any, between the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity, high screen time in children and a lack of adequate physical activity, and the rising occurrence of heart disease in adults at a young age.
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“If we know the magnitude of the problem, we can address it adequately and in time. That was an important motive to initiate the study,” explains Dr Kapoor.
A cardiologist with over 20 years of practice, he said, “The study was a step to raise awareness in society by giving a real data-backed scenario, giving inputs to authorities in healthcare policymakers, and contributing as a think tank for heart disease control.
Each participant was given a cardiovascular health score based on their responses to BMI, physical activity time, bedtime hours, sleep time hours, dietary habits, and nicotine exposure. The maximum attainable CVH score was set at 100 and subjects were profiled for advice on lifestyle modifications based on their scores relative to it, he informed.
“A score less than 40 was categorized as concerning, children in this needed intense lifestyle modifications starting as early as possible. A score between 70 and 100 was healthy whereas children scoring between 40 and 70 need moderate lifestyle movements.”
The investigators were more attentive to children in urban areas, as they are more likely to have an access to electronic gadgets, and junk food and may also spend more time indoors.
Twenty-four per cent of the study population had a CVH score of less than 40, 68 per cent featured in the 40-70 score category, and only 8 per cent of all children led a lifestyle that met all criteria needed for a healthy cardiovascular system. “Obesity was seen to be prevalent in 38 per cent of the total study population, inadequate sleep was in 3 per cent but improper bedtime hours were noted in the routine of 75 per cent of children. The body has a 24-hour internal clock. Early or late bedtimes may be more likely to disrupt the body clock with adverse consequences for cardiovascular health.”
Dr Kapoor urges parents to intervene and facilitate changes in their children’s lifestyle to potentially avert cardiovascular disease risk in adulthood. “Most people don’t think about risk factors during childhood but I think it’s actually essential that we all start doing that. Because it’s probably way easier to prevent the development of cardiac risk factors than to try and get rid of them once they’ve developed.”
A good diet is one where half the food is vegetables and fruits, a quarter is lean protein, and a quarter is whole grain, with a side of dairy, Dr Kapoor suggested.
He said that whether it’s through a formal class or just playing at a park, physical activity should be worked into a family’s schedule.
“The activity should be age-appropriate and align with the child’s interests. Primarily, I suggest lifestyle modification for all. The heart-healthy lifestyle is the one where there is daily two hours of physical activity, a healthy diet, a minimum of 7 hours of sleep in adults, and 8-9 hours in children and on time,” suggests Dr Kapoor.
The study is lined up for presentation at the Innovations in Interventional Cardiology Summit 2022, a two-day annual meet of IIC 2022.