19 September 12 Posted by Dr Duncan
“Imprinting of disease doesn’t wait until you are a responsible grown up, it starts very early on in life.” - Dr Duncan Jefferson gives tips on how to set your kids up for a healthy life.
The beginning of September may mark the first days of spring, but for a large proportion of Australians, it is also the time to celebrate It’s all happening. Spring shouted its arrival recently with a glorious weekend top temperature of 29C, the Eagles and the Dockers have both been playing Finals Footy and I’ve noticed that the “young bride” is looking at more recipes for salads than hot meals! It’s that time of year when a new era is upon us once again, and we need to prepare for another beautiful West Aussie summer in the great outdoors, and live the dream.
You don’t have to linger over the newspaper, or see the news on the TV or the internet to realise that so many nations around the world don’t have the same opportunities as we do here in wonderful WA. Yes, the cost of living is high and there are many who are doing it tough or have lost jobs recently, but generally speaking we definitely live in the lucky country when you take time to see how our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world exist.
But just being lucky is not really good enough if we want to enjoy the fruits of where we live. It’s no fun living in a nursing home having suffered a stroke, even if it’s the best nursing home in the world and the sun is shining outside. It’s really hard to enjoy life if your kidneys have failed or your vision is so bad because you ignored your diabetes with an “I’ll be right” attitude. Our health care is superb, but it’s only one part of a partnership and we are the other half. It’s our responsibility to do as much as we can to maximise our health so that not only can we live longer but we can live better too.
There are some astonishing figures that suggest that almost half of all cancers are lifestyle associated. Think smoking or drinking alcohol which both can cause cancer. Then there’s heart disease and the big correctible risk factors which are lack of physical activity and poor dietary choices. When it comes to being well, our doctors can give medications to help correct problems, but each one of us has the potential to actually prevent many of those diseases from becoming established in the first place! And health prevention doesn’t begin when we “come to our senses” in our mid to late 20’s, it actually starts in the womb! So just as we plan and save for our future prosperity, so we should also plan for our future health and wellbeing too.
Life in the womb: Mums, help your kids by not smoking during or after pregnancy, and avoiding all alcohol during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. And Dads have a vital role to play in supporting and encouraging the Mums to live a healthy lifestyle too!
Toddler times: Make sure your children have their immunisations. This has been the greatest public health initiative in reducing infant mortality ever. With the recent tripling of cases of whooping cough and influenza, the implication is that some parents are not doing their bit to help protect the WHOLE community of kids by vaccinating their own children. Vaccinations do save lives and if you’re concerned then talk to an expert, rather than cherry-picking information from the internet or over the back fence.
Pre-School to High School: Make sure our children get a diet with lots of fresh veggies, fruits, nuts and salads: this will slow the current expanding epidemic of obesity. Try to avoid pre-packaged processed foods and remember that fresh is best. Ration TV, iPods, iPads, computer games etc and make sure that your kids get outside and engage in the great outdoors. There are so many great sporting groups for kids - Nippers at Surf Life Saving, Little Athletics, Little Tackers for sailing plus swimming, cycling, Scouts .... the list is vast and there’s a group for just about all tastes out there.
Teenage Time - AKA the “Chaos” years: For most teenagers the maturing brain is yet to make many emotional connections and, for a great number of parents, it’s also a time when their beautiful children turn into mumbling monsters with exotic tastes in clothes and music. Be reassured and be patient. When it’s all finished, 99% of these young people will morph in to amazing adults! But during this period of change they do need consistency and they do need to be heard, rather than told where they went wrong. And from a health point of view this is the time when they take risks, so it’s also the time when they need education on alcohol, recreational drugs and the unthought-through, life-long consequences of sexual activity. They also need to maintain a healthy diet and to be physically activity. Flexibility is required by both parent and teenager, so that they arrive at the “responsible years” in the best possible condition.
Why is all this so important? Imprinting of disease doesn’t wait until you are a responsible grown up, it starts very early on in life. And it requires that we adults give the next generation, and our grandchildren’s generation, the best possible start by protecting their internal organs from the insidious onset of potentially destructive diseases that we know to be caused by poor lifestyle choices. Spring, and the promise of a great summer to follow, is a great time to make this happen. Good health is the best gift you can give to anyone. Your kids deserve it.
The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.
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