Today’s parents have to ensure their children don’t contract lifestyle diseases

There were times some common diseases were considered a thing for adults. Children were not expected to suffer from diabetes, heart diseases, cancer, among others. Theirs was pneumonia, malaria and common colds. But that is the past.

There were times some common diseases were considered a thing for adults. Children were not expected to suffer from diabetes, heart diseases, cancer, among others. Theirs was pneumonia, malaria and common colds. But that is the past.

The reality check today is more daunting on parents than when they see their little ones diagnosed with some of these diseases than if they (the parents) were the ones falling ill.

Bringing up the future generations is now a vulnerable scheme for parents as so many lifestyle diseases lurk in the shadows of children. It is not just about giving children good education, beans and ugali plus a few paracetamol to wade of malaria and flu; parents have to watch out for health habits of their children right from childhood as a preventive measure to ensure lesser chances of their contracting the diseases.

Dr Joseph Mucumbisi, the chairperson of Rwanda Heart Foundation, says children consider their parents’ characters or habits and activities to always be good and constructive to the families. They try to imitate and emulate their parents.

“When a parent smokes, children consider it normal even when in actually affects their health, meaning that as parents, the decisions and what they engage in, especially in the presence of their children, matters a lot in shaping them (the children),” Dr Mucumbisi says.

In addition to preparing a balanced and nutritious diet to ensure the health of their family, parents have the obligation to counsel or guide their children, especially using the free cost initiatives to fight the heart diseases, among others.

The World Health Organisation reports that global levels of physical activity are declining and that up to 37 per cent of parents in the world do not pay any attention to exercising their body like simple walking. A simple exercise can go a long way in ensuring the health of our hearts.

During celebrations to mark the World Heart Day, on September 29, the World Heart Federation called on the public to increase their physical activities as a means to protect their heart health as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart disease and stroke.

A person should at least have a 30-minute physical exercise daily. This would not only contribute to their body resistance to minor diseases, but also have a significant impact on how the body reacts against other Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). 

NCDs are chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, kidney infections and cancer, among others.

“It is unfortunate that people take physical exercises for granted yet it is life saving in the long-run; and if the elders do not embrace it, it is quite hard for the young generation to take up when their parents are being reluctant,” Dr Mucumbisi says.

The Rwanda Heart Foundation says at least 60 and 75 heart patients are operated annually. The most affected are women.

“We have an opportunity to prevent the future impact of heart disease and stroke by enabling heart-healthy living from childhood,” he said.

Speaking during this year’s World Heart Day, which conceded with the World Diabetes Day, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Uzziel Ndagijimana, said early detection will also help in fighting against Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

A one-year campaign to fight the diseases in which about 1,000 medics will take lead was also launched. This campaign will see members of the public test of diabetes, heart, eyes, nose and mouth infection, measuring of weight, breast cancer, asthma and kidney, among others.

Dr Ndagijimana said the campaign will also focus on educating and sensitising the public about the importance of going for medical checkups.

The cause cardiovascular diseases are physical inactivity, drinking too much alcohol, stress–hormones associated with (mental) stress such as cortisone raise blood sugar levels. Stress is also linked to higher blood, air pollution, the age of first menstruation.

Cardiovascular diseases include illnesses that involve the blood vessels, veins, arteries and capillaries or the heart, or both–diseases that affect the cardiovascular system.

This is the system that transports oxygenated blood from the lungs and heart throughout the body.

Dr Jameel Al-Ata, the head surgeon at Little Hearts in Africa, said congenital heart defects are among the common birth defects, so children some time are born with it or just fall sick.

It is unusual for children or teenagers to have a heart attack or stroke because their blood vessels do not narrow–narrowing caused by atherosclerosis, takes many years to develop.

Arteriosclerosis is a stage in which fatty deposits (atheromas) are deposited inside the arterial walls, thus narrowing the arteries. For most children, atherosclerosis is mild and progresses slowly. In some children, atherosclerosis worsens rapidly, increasing the risk of heart disease, and less commonly, stroke in early adult life 

Overweight and obese children and teenagers have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol and lipids.


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