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Early intervention among preschool children shown to benefit heart health

Posted:  Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Introducing nutrition and healthy lifestyle behaviours can result in children befriending good health for long term. A recent study found that children introduced to healthy lifestyle behaviours showed better knowledge, attitude and habits toward healthy diet and exercise. In turn, it can also lead to reduced levels of body fat. This could result in parents adopting healthier lifestyles too.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, followed over 2,000 children between 3 to 5 years of age in 24 Madrid public schools for 3 years. The children were exposed to lifestyle intervention in the form of classroom materials, take-home activities and also activities planned for the school’s annual health fair. They were assessed by paediatric psychologists using a questionnaire once at the beginning of the study and then at the end of each year of the study period. The questionnaire evaluated student knowledge, attitude and habits toward diet, physical activity and the human body.

The following were the observations of the study:

Children in the intervention group scored 5.5%, 7.7% and 4.9% higher on their knowledge, attitude and habits score than the control group in the 3 years of the study.

Better parental education, higher family income and European ancestry seemed to impact the score greatly.

At the end of the study, the prevalence of obesity and overweight among children in the intervention group was 1.1% and 7% respectively as compared to 1.3%and 7.4% in the control group.

The biggest changes were noticed among children who were enrolled early and attended all of the 3 years of the intervention. Intervention that lasted for less than 2 years did not yield any results.

"It may not only be the cardiovascular health information from the programme that is helpful but also the cognitive stimulation from and exposure to positive adult role models, which in turn influence personality traits critical for health behaviour and habits. This pioneering study represents a very important step in exploring the intersection of child development, cardiovascular health promotion and primordial prevention. We eagerly await longitudinal follow-up, data from other age-groups, and outcomes related to families and schools from the SI! Program," said Deepak L. Bhatt, executive director of interventional cardiovascular programmes at Brigham and Women's Hospital Heart and Vascular Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston in the editorial.

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