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Exercise and the heart

10 October 2006

Physical activity, nutrition and positive minds

The European Youth Heart Study, for example, endeavours to understand the factors that influence children’s cardiovascular risk, with the aim of identifying appropriate targets for intervention.

Extensive tests were carried out on 5,000 children (aged 9-15 years) across five different countries. Tests included blood analyses, measures of physical activity, fitness, diet and body composition. Children were given accelerometers that measure both amount and intensity of activity. Early results, already presented to the UK government and to the World Heath Organization, particularly support initiatives to encourage active travel to school.

Heart-healthy grocery store tours

Although there are guidelines available on healthy eating, it isn’t always easy to put them into practice. So, when recommending that people eat five portions of fruit or veg a day, it’s very helpful to demonstrate what a portion looks like. Similarly, when talking about the cardioprotective effects of oily fish, it helps to look at choices available and how you might cook them.

To address these issues, nutrition-education sessions ‘with a difference’ were arranged to take place in a supermarket. People with high blood lipid levels or type II diabetes, both high-risk factors for development of coronary heart disease, were taken round their local supermarket by a qualified nutritionist. The tour members selected foods they would normally buy, looked at the nutritional content, and then tried to find healthier alternatives. As one tour member put it: “My eyes were completely opened; I’ve had diabetes for 30 years and thought I knew everything about eating healthily.”

The Bristol Heart Institute

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