Reversing Childhood Obesity for Better Heart Health | Legacy BlueStar | Sanlam Financial Planners Bellville, Cape Town

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Reversing childhood obesity for better heart health

Obesity in young South Africans has doubled in just six years. Globally, childhood obesity has increased tenfold since 1975, with 41 million youngsters under the age of five either obese or overweight. And a quarter of these children live in Africa.

September is Heart Awareness Month, so it’s an appropriate time for parents and guardians to start becoming aware of their children’s heart health. The European Heart Journal published a study that showed young people who achieved an average weight by their twenties had the same risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol as those who have never been overweight. This is highly positive, as these factors can cause illnesses down the line, like some types of cancer and cardiac disease.

"In SA, five people have heart attacks and 10 have strokes every hour."

Although the risk for diabetes is still higher for obese children who achieve a normal weight by early adulthood, eliminating the higher risk of heart disease is essential. In SA, five people have heart attacks and 10 have strokes every hour. Collectively, 17,3 million people die from cardiovascular diseases yearly – more than all cancers combined.

It is vital to change children’s habits when they’re young. Parents need to identify when there is a problem and intervene early, compassionately and sensitively.

Along with the health issues associated with childhood obesity, obese young adults also face higher loadings on their health insurance premiums. Every risk factor comes with time. In a 60-year-old, some of the risk factors will already have developed, for example, and hypertension may have led to a heart attack. But in a young person, even though symptoms and illnesses have not yet developed, they’re likely to develop at a later stage. Insurers may then load the premium to account for the unexpressed risks. That’s why an overweight 25-year-old may relatively pay more for insurance than a 60-year-old with the same body mass index (BMI).

Sanlam Life is a Licensed Life Insurer, Financial Services and Registered Credit Provider (NCRCP43)

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