Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Couch Potatoes: Lately, They're Young Spuds

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Couch Potatoes: Lately, They're Young Spuds

Article excerpt

What do computer games, the family-room couch, junk food, MTV, school vending machines and the high crime rate have in common?

A. They are keeping youngsters indoors and inactive.

B. They are contributing to high cholesterol levels in the young.

C. They are contributing to high blood pressure in 2.8 million U.S. youngsters aged 6 to 17.

D. They are contributing to obesity that affects 20 million children.

E. All of the above.

No matter which answer you guessed - you guessed right. Especially if you took the last option. Toast yourself with carrot juice.

Doctors and other health care workers may disagree on all the factors that contribute to couch-potato syndrome in children. But they agree on one thing: Bad habits acquired in childhood are hard to break.

Dr. John Ferrara, cardiologist at St. John's Mercy Medical Center, says he is finding heart-related diseases in younger and younger patients, including a recent 27-year-old heart attack victim.

Typically he would see such problems in people in their mid- or late 50s. He doesn't think stress is the only explanation for younger people with heart problems.

Elevated cholesterol levels, diabetes and the lack of regular exercise are the risk factors Ferrara looks for.

Too many of his patients have started an exercise program and have fallen off. "The lifetime commitment should start in the childhood years," he said.

Meanwhile, Mike Lapusan, a recreation coordinator for St. Louis, says he's seen a decline in the participation of young people in the city's physical education programs in the past 10 years.

During the same 10 years, a study of 440 children in Louisiana found they were heavier, bigger around and had higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels than children in a similar study between 1973 and 1981.

In St. Louis, Lapusan says the drop in activity began with the decline of public high school leagues and the societies - German Gymnastic Society and Polish Society, for example - that sponsored recreation. …

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