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Couch potato culture putting kids at future risk of heart disease

Couch potato culture putting kids at future risk of heart disease

BHF funds £200,000 Hearty Lives project to tackle child obesity in Manchester


The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has warned that swathes of children are in danger of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) later in life if they continue to skip meals and sport in favour of watching TV and drinking fizzy drinks.


The warning comes as the heart charity releases a new statistics report uncovering the shocking lifestyle trends that are contributing to around a third (30%) of children across the UK being overweight or obese (1).


In response, the BHF is expanding its Hearty Lives programme by committing £1.2 million to fund seven new community projects that aim to cut the future risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) for children and young people across the UK. 


The projects, run in partnership with local authorities, the NHS and non-profit organisations will use a range of interventions to help. These include employing a dietitian to work with children struggling with obesity in Manchester.


Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the BHF, said: "These figures are a warning that many of our children are in grave danger of developing coronary heart disease in the future if they continue to live the same lifestyle. This is simply unacceptable. Through our new Hearty Lives projects we are committed to working with local communities to give young people most at risk of heart disease a healthier start in life.


"But we can't act alone. Local decision makers need to identify the children and young people at greatest risk of poor health in their communities and take steps to help them improve their lifestyle. By ensuring children develop healthy habits now, we can give them a fighting chance of avoiding serious ill-health in the future."


Hearty Lives have awarded the Children's Weight Management Service £200,000 to provide an outreach service to children in Manchester struggling with obesity for the next 3 years. The money will fund the service; including the employment of a full time dietician as well as the money to send four children a year to the only medically evidenced specialist weight management camp in the country. The first four children went to camp on the 21st of July for six weeks.


The report, produced in partnership with the BHF Health Promotion Research Group at Oxford University (HPRG), reveals that in England:


  • A shocking eight out of ten (80%) children are not eating the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day (2)
  • Around two in five 13-year-olds (39% of girls and 43% of boys) drink a soft drink every day despite a can of cola containing nearly nine teaspoons of sugar (3)
  • Almost half (47%) of boys and over a third (36%) of girls, aged 13, go without breakfast, ignoring advice that it's the most important meal of the day (4)

The picture is just as bleak when children's levels of physical activity in England are considered:


  • A staggering 85% of girls and 73% of boys, aged 13, say they don't do the recommended one hour of physical activity a day (5)
  • Nearly three-quarters of 13-year-olds (68% of girls and 74% of boys) say they watch at least two hours of TV on a week day, leaving less time for sport and physical activity (6)
  • Around a quarter of children (23% of boys and 25% of girls) spend at least six hours sedentary on a weekend day (7)