Basic rules for keeping children away from risk

A significant number of children could reduce their chances of developing arteriosclerosis in later life to almost zero if they followed certain simple rules for a healthy life, says Vassilis Thanopoulos, director of the Pediatric Cardiology Department of Aghia Sophia Children’s Hospital. Preventive measures include a proper diet, maintaining the right body weight, exercise and avoiding exposure to smoke. Children’s diets in particular should include lots of fruit, vegetables, pulses, cereals, fish and olive oil. Steaming is the best way to cook vegetables, fish and poultry, and boiling is the next-best method. Fast-food should be avoided, as should sweets and food containing large amounts of animal fat. A proper diet is also the best means of preventing obesity, by keeping a child’s weight as close as possible to the ideal weight for his/her age. Smoking – both active and passive – is a serious risk factor in developing arteriosclerosis. Exercise is a definite ally of the heart. That means doing exercises that activate the large body muscles and raise the pulse rate at least three times a week. A good exercise program can lower lipid and lipo-protein levels in children. A balanced program of dynamic and isometric exercise should be recommended to all children with high levels of cholesterol and blood lipids.