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Starting Young to Build a Healthy Heart

I’m Barbara Klein with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Sunday was World Heart Day. The World Heart Federation and its member groups in more than one hundred countries organized the celebrations. The World Health Organization and other United Nations agencies provided support for the event.

World Heart Day was first observed six years ago. Organizers proposed the event as a way to help reduce the spread of heart disease. The World Heart Federation says heart disease kills seventeen million people each year.

The group urges people to be active and have a good, healthy diet. It also warns against activities known to increase a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke.

Some of the warnings are directed at children. The World Heart Federation says about twenty-two million boys and girls under the age of five are obese -- severely overweight.

Children are normally energetic and active. However, two thirds of all children are not active enough. Such children greatly increase their risk of becoming obese. They also increase their risk of developing heart disease or other disorders.

One message of World Heart Day is to eat right. Children should eat a healthy and balanced diet. Also, limit sugary drinks, sweets and eating between meals.

The World Heart Federation urges parents to keep their children active. It says physical exercise helps to decrease the risk of obesity and keeps a child healthy. Obese children often become obese adults. If you believe your child is too heavy, talk with a health care provider.

The World Heart Federation also is concerned about the effects of tobacco on young people. It says the younger someone begins to smoke, the greater the chance of a health problem tied to smoking. Half of the young people who continue to smoke are likely to die later in life from a smoking-related disease.

The group says almost half of all children live with a smoker. It says children who live with a smoker can breathe an amount of tobacco equal to more than two thousand cigarettes. And that is by the time they are five years old.

The World Heart Federation also says parents should warn children not to be influenced by tobacco companies. And it says parents who smoke should try to stop.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by George Grow. Our reports are on the Web at I'm Barbara Klein.