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HEALTH REPORT - World Heart Day - 2004-09-28

Broacast: September 29, 2004

This is Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Last Sunday was World Heart Day. The World Heart Federation started the event five years ago to increase public education about the threat of heart disease and stroke.

World Heart Day is run by the World Heart Federation’s member organizations in almost one-hundred countries. Each year, they hold educational activities designed to get more people to exercise, eat better and lead a heart-healthy way of life.

This year, the main subject of World Heart Day was “Children, Adolescents and Heart Disease.” Health officials say two-thirds of children worldwide are not active enough for good health.

The World Heart Federation says more than three hundred million adults and twenty-two million children under the age of five are severely overweight. Obesity has risen sharply in both developed and less developed countries.

Experts say overweight children are three to five times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke before they reach the age of sixty-five. Even children who are overweight, but not severely, are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Cigarettes also threaten the future of children's hearts. The World Heart Foundation says smokers often begin to use tobacco before they are ten years old. The younger a person begins to smoke, the greater the risk of developing heart disease.

Also, the World Heart Federation says almost half of all children around the world live with someone who smokes. It says children who breathe so-called secondhand smoke suffer from many of the same diseases as smokers.

Experts say those children also have a twenty-five percent increased risk of developing both lung cancer and heart disease. And they have an eighty percent increased risk of a stroke. A stroke happens when an artery that carries blood and oxygen to the brain is blocked by a clot or bursts.

The World Heart Federation says education is the most effective way to reduce future heart disease and stroke in children. It says children must be taught to eat healthier foods and to exercise more. It also says measures must be taken to limit their exposure to tobacco. And it says governments must develop policies that work to reduce the risks for heart disease and stroke.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Gwen Outen.