Many adolescents are heading for myocardial infarction

German Heart Foundation, German Society for Cardiology and Cancer Research Center warn against overweight and cigarette addiction in more and more children. Living habits in adolescence lay the foundation for adult health. More and more young people in Germany run the risk of suffering a heart attack later in life. Obesity, which is one of the most dangerous risk factors for cardiovascular disease besides nicotine dependence, is threatening to spread rapidly among adolescents. Therefore, the German Heart Foundation, the German Society of Cardiology and the German Cancer Research Center call for effective protective measures to be established in schools: Nutrition education must finally be given an appropriate place in the curriculum. The physical education should get a higher priority. And smoking must be consistently prohibited on school grounds in all federal states.

Risk: smoking and overweight

Every year around 270, 000 people in Germany suffer a heart attack. Responsible is typically a coronary calcification, which progresses over years and continuously restricts the supply of oxygen to the heart muscle. One of the main culprits of such a vascular calcification is mainly the cigarette addiction and the overweight, which leads to high blood pressure, lipid metabolism disorders and the diabetes mellitus diabetes. However, such risk factors are more and more common not only in adults, but also in childhood and adolescence.

"11% to 15% of new schoolchildren are already overweight today, " emphasizes med. Helmut Gohlke, chief physician at the Heart Center Bad Krozingen. "It is to be feared that Germany will follow the US trend, where the proportion of overweight children has more than tripled since the 1960s, " said the respected cardiologist.

Enjoying movement without performance pressure

The German Heart Foundation in collaboration with the German Society of Cardiology and the German Cancer Research Center has issued a comprehensive statement containing constructive proposals to effectively protect adolescents from obesity and cigarette addiction. An important starting point is nutrition education, which must be given adequate space in the curriculum of all schools. In addition, a health-promoting offer of break meals should be taken care of. Instead of offering high-fat and sweet pastry particles, the purchase of fruit, wholemeal bread and salads should be allowed on the school grounds. Furthermore, schools have much more to counteract the lack of exercise, which is still one of the main causes of obesity and is now widespread among young people.

"From a medical point of view, the number of weekly sports lessons must be increased urgently, " emphasizes Prof. Gohlke. "However, the performance idea should not be too much in the foreground, but rather the fun of the movement must be awakened, so that the sports activities continue in adulthood beyond school."

Prohibit smoking in schools

More commitment should also show many schools in the fight against cigarette dependence. Because the school age is the typical starter age in the cigarette addiction, of which many sufferers in their later life, despite the greatest efforts no longer get away. The three organizations therefore call on politicians and society leaders to finally create the long overdue legal basis for a general smoking ban in schools in all states.

At present, in many places, school leaders alone or in coordination with the parents' council can still allow smoking in designated places, so that smoker's corners in many federal states still belong to the everyday image of the schools.

The dangers of overweight:

  • Obese children have about three to five times the risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared to their normal age peers before they reach the age of 65.
  • Worldwide, 22 million children under the age of five are obese.
  • Almost 20% of children in Europe are overweight or obese.
  • The highest rates are observed in the southern European countries. For example, in Italy about 36% of nine year olds are overweight or obese.

Source: European Heart Network (EHN) - Press release, September 2004

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