Tag Archives: heart health

The Road to Good Heart Health Starts in Childhood

“Oh, high blood pressure? That’s only in old people”

“Heart problems only occur in adults or old people”

Aren’t these your thoughts too? Most of us think that problems related to high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart problems only occur in adults or older people.  In reality, it can affect people of all ages, including children.

Studies show a significant rise in the number of children affected by non-communicable diseases like hypertension and heart diseases. Commemorating World Heart Health Day, we would like to highlight that taking care of the heart needs to start in childhood.

Obesity; the main culprit

Although there are a number of factors that can adversely affect heart health in children, obesity remains the main culprit. Obesity also hastens the occurrence of other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and so on. High BP is an important risk factor for heart diseases.

A study that looked at the relationship of childhood obesity with blood pressure in Indian school children (5–16 years) reported that high blood pressure was more prevalent in obese children. So what? Here’s the catch – the problem of high blood pressure that begins in childhood persists through adolescence well into adulthood. In a nutshell, a hypertensive child is a hypertensive adult.

Experts also believe that childhood and adolescent obesity has a compelling impact on the structure and functioning of the heart; so it is very important to ensure that children fall in the healthy weight range.

What can you do to ensure good heart health in your child?

Prevention is always better than cure. Although factors such as family history or genetic predisposition cannot be changed or avoided, we can take control of other risk factors to deter or delay the disease.

  1. Children are what they eat: Healthy eating habits not only includes healthy, nutritious food but also regular meal times. Excess of anything is bad. A diet high in fat, carbs and/or sugar contribute to obesity and excess of sodium (in the form of salt, sauces, MSG) make way for high BP.
  1. Hustle the muscle: with the advent of technology in every phase of life, screen time (like TV, mobile-use, video games) has substantially increased. Activity and exercise have undoubtedly taken a back seat. Physical activity strengthens heart muscles, helps blood vessels branch out more, regulates blood pressure and also increases HDL (good) cholesterol.

      Children and adolescents must get at least 60 minutes of moderate to        vigorous aerobic activity every day. Examples include bike                                  riding, swimming, jogging, football, aerobics or dancing.

  1. Let the children kick butt: be it electronic cigarettes or smokeless tobacco, they are all harmful. Most children may get on this track due to peer pressure or stress. On the other hand, passive smoking can also be the reason.

It’s best to form good habits early in life so we don’t have to break bad habits later.

So it is time to change our way of thinking and understand that good heart health starts from childhood.

Resurgence of the Humble Coconut

Case # 101: Coconut Chaos

A couple of decades earlier, under Section 111 of the health & nutrition penal code, coconut was defamed and found to be guilty of contributing to ill health because of its high saturated fat content. The accused was thus sentenced to a lifetime banishment from plates across India.

Now, wait let’s crack open this case.

Is coconut really guilty of all the heinous crimes that it was convicted of? Definitely not! Let’s look at why the coconut is back with a bang.

Every part of the humble coconut; be it the coconut meat called copra, water (tender coconut water), milk or oil, has nourished Indians long long before the West became interested in it. However, all of a sudden the coconut was condemned as its oil was touted as an artery clogger due to its saturated fat content. Consequently, the coconut pretty much became extinct from Indian food plates.

It is not hard to see that the accused was framed for the crime of his evil twin – the hydrogenated coconut oil. This fellow creates health havocs with trans fat. The refined coconut oil too, which is extracted from chemically bleached and deodorized coconut meat, is equally bad.

On the other hand, unrefined, virgin coconut oil does contain saturated fat, but of the good kind. It mainly contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that boost metabolism and increases satiety. One of the main MCTs in coconut oil, Lauric acid, offers antimicrobial action and surprise, surprise coconut oil actually improves heart-related risk factors like cholesterol and triglycerides. Coconut oil also nourishes the hair and skin and is found beneficial for brain disorders and diabetes.

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But why just look at the oil. The tender coconut water is a natural thirst quencher that effectively replenishes fluids and electrolytes. In fact, it is comparable to sports beverages. Coconut water is also said to help with the battle against diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and kidney stones. But again not the one from bottled or branded water with added sugar, sweeteners or flavors but the natural and fresh form. And last but not the least, coconut milk whose benefits parallel that of the oil.

Why leave the fresh coconut meat? Did you know that that the fresh coconut meat contains a huge amount of fiber? 100g of fresh coconut kernel contains nearly 11 g of fiber which is about half your daily requirement of fiber!

If coconut was as bad as it was portrayed then certain populations who survived purely on coconut should have been sick because of it. But that’s not the case, if you don’t believe our ancestors, especially the South Indians then turn the globe and have a look at the Tokelauans and the Kitavans. It’s just that we forgot the other elements that contributed to ill health.

So in a nutshell, the coconut was just a victim of scattered anecdotal evidence and hearsay and now thanks to sound scientific evidence, it has made an envious-worthy come back rising above all the damning accusations.

Case closed! 

Disclaimer: The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and/or diet.