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Health Team

Heart disease no longer a middle-aged problem

Posted May 27, 2015

Heart disease resulting from poor diet and inactivity, according to doctors, is no longer a middle-aged problem.

Dr. Brenda Armstrong decided four decades ago that office visits were not enough to inspire lifestyle changes in her young patients. In an effort to address her concerns for her patients’ health, Armstrong started the Durham Striders Track Club - a program to help mostly young African-American students learn self-discipline in diet and exercise.

"And the discipline that's involved across both of those carries over to academics and success in school," she said.

Armstrong, dean of student admissions at the Duke University School of Medicine, is also a pediatric cardiologist. She is concerned about children who develop poor eating habits and too little exercise.

"They are going to develop adult acquired heart disease, hypertensive heart disease and all of its complications," she said.

Complications include kidney disease, liver disease and coronary artery disease. Inactivity also places children at high risk for diabetes and its complications.

In the Durham Striders, Armstrong said she demands commitment from families to ban soda and fast food in their diets. The program is water only.

"For them to say to people, 'I can't have that because I am an athlete,'” she said. “This is about them developing behaviors that are really, really, going to last them for a lifetime.”

Parents also have to be involved, for they play a big role in their children's health, Armstrong added.

"The most important thing as a parent is preparing your child to be healthy for a future that is more than 35 or 40 years," she said.

The Durham Striders is a year-round program and has inspired the creation of other track clubs around the state and country.

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