A local grade schooler recently had a triglyceride level of 262 — well above the normal range of six to 100 milligrams per deciliter for this measure of fat in the blood.
But the good news is the overweight youngster previously had a level over 300, so things are moving in the right direction, said Melody Acosta, a registered dietician and certified specialist in pediatric nutrition at Water’s Edge.
As the community marks “Go Red for Women’s Heart Health” this Saturday, Feb. 6, with a free heart expo and walk/run at the Kiwanis Pocket Park on Klindt Drive, officials say a focus on youth is fitting as the nation’s healthcare system moves toward preventing rather than treating disease.
National levels of obesity have more than doubled in recent decades, said registered dietician Jennifer Zimmerman, and Wasco County has the highest childhood obesity rates in Oregon.
According to county health department data, 38 percent of school-aged children in Wasco County are overweight or obese, compared to 24 percent statewide.
But a grant-funded effort, “Fit in Wasco,” is working to combat it. Officials hope, among other things, to encourage more biking — and walking —friendly community.
The free heart expo runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. will include health screenings, chair massage, information on kids and heart health and other information. A soup and bread lunch will sell for $3 and heart-healthy cookbooks will sell for $5.
The 3k/5k/10k walk/run will begin at 10 a.m., with on-site registration at 9:30 a.m. To register online go to http:// info.mcmc.net/gored2016.
Proceeds from the event go to the Mid-Columbia Health Foundation cardiac rehab assistance fund.
Dr. Mimi McDonell, health officer for North Central public Health District, said the surgeon general has put out a call to action to promote walking and walkable communities.
“I really like that, it’s not an individual thing, everybody in the community needs to work together,” McDonell said.
While breast cancer gets considerable public focus, it is far less lethal than cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, accounting for one-third of deaths among women each yea.Breast cancer accounts for one in 31 deaths each year.
“It’s a very significant issue for women and a lot of women think that it only happens to old people or it only happens to men. Clearly that is not the case,” McDonell said.
Regular physical activity helps ward off disease and having safe places to bike and walk are being considered as The Dalles updates its transportation safety plan.
McDonell sits on the public advisory panel working on the plan, set to be finished later this year.
“They’re really working hard on making active transportation [walking and biking] in the city safe and accessible,” McDonell said. That could include things from new street lights to new sidewalks.
From her standpoint as a dietician, Acosta said the focus on heart health is trending downward in age as childhood obesity increases.
“I think a lot more attention is being focused on this issue now because kids are being diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure and problems we used to not see until people were in their 40s, and you see 10-year-olds, 12-year-olds being diagnosed with Type II diabetes,” Acosta said.
That type of diabetes is also known as adult-onset diabetes because it typically appears later in life.
She said the child with the high triglyceride had a cardiac risk ratio of 7, and the average risk is between 3.5 to 4.9.
Heeding a public call for cooking classes, dieticians at Water’s Edge are offering a four-week program called Family Table to teach healthy cooking and an active lifestyle to kids and their families.
And, to help in efforts to improve community health, Acosta would love to see schools and churches open up their gyms to allow kids to expend some energy after school.
“Kids go home and they watch TV the whole afternoon, and especially kids from economically disadvantaged families,” she said. These families also live in neighborhoods where there are no sidewalks and parents are afraid to let them in the neighborhood by themselves.
Zimmerman said people know it’s not good to be overweight “but I don’t really know if people understand why it’s not good.”
Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, especially high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Among obese children ages 5 to 17, at least 70 percent have at least one of those problems.
“It is kind of staggering,” Zimmerman said.