Health risk for parents as children come first

ACCORDING to new market research, a majority (72%) of Australian parents of young children are at increased risk of high cholesterol due to weight gain or reduced exercise, with 64% of parents not considering their health as often now that they have children.

The online survey, commissioned by Procter and Gamble, of more than 1000 parents of children aged 11 years and under was conducted by Metamucil and Heart Research Australia to uncover how the life changes that accompany parenthood impact health and wellbeing.

In particular, the risk factors that contribute to high cholesterol levels were evaluated.

Of the parents surveyed, four in 10 (40%) admitted to never having their cholesterol checked or were unsure if they had ever had their cholesterol checked - more so among women (46%) than men (34%).

"What some people don't realise is that lowering your cholesterol levels is a step towards reducing your risk of heart disease," explains Heart Research Australia CEO Floyd Larsen.

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The right amount of dietary fibre can play an important role in lowering cholesterol, yet only 1% of parents are aware of what they need to consume to meet the recommended daily intake of 25 to 30 grams of fibre.

On average, most Australians do not get enough fibre in their diet.

"These findings provide a timely reminder of the importance of regular exercise and balanced eating when it comes to maintaining good health.

"By taking simple steps to improve your heart health like getting a cholesterol check and increasing your fibre intake to help lower cholesterol, you're putting your best foot forward for yourself and your family," Mrs Larsen said.

When it comes to other risk factors for heart disease, parents of young children need to also pay attention.

One in four parents (27%) say they have a family history of high cholesterol and one in three of those that report multiple risk factors to high cholesterol have never had their cholesterol level checked.

"For these reasons it is important that parents start to move their heart health up on their list of priorities," Mrs Larsen said.

The news is not all bad, however, as it appears parents of young children are making an effort when it comes to eating and drinking.

Most parents (77%) say the meals they eat are at least as healthy if not more healthy than in their pre-children days and around half (48%) have reduced their alcohol consumption since having children.

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