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Be Well

Parents’ approach affects child’s risk of eating disorder

How parents talk to their adolescent children about weight and size affects the likelihood their children will develop unhealthy habits to control their weight, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota.

Researchers looked at data from two surveys that included nearly 3,000 adolescents, some of whom were overweight or obese, and 4,000 parents who either talked to their child about their weight and size or about healthy eating habits or did not talk to their children about their image or food at all.

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The study found that parents who spoke to their children about their weight or size — anything from a brief conversation to a mentoring session — were more likely to have a child who developed unhealthy eating behaviors such as binge eating or fasting compared with parents who focused on promoting healthy eating and those who had no such conversation.

Thirty-five percent of adolescents who were not overweight but whose parent talked about weight and size were on a diet, and 6 percent developed extreme unhealthy eating behaviors. Twenty-two percent of those whose parent discussed healthy eating habits dieted, and only 2 percent engaged in unhealthy eating behaviors.

Among overweight adolescents, 40 percent whose parent talked about healthy eating dieted or engaged in unhealthy behaviors compared to 64 percent whose parent talked about their weight, and 53 percent had no discussion at all.

BOTTOM LINE: How parents talk to their adolescent children about weight and size affects the likelihood their children will develop unhealthy habits to control their weight.

CAUTIONS: The study relied on self-reported surveys, which may not have been accurate.

WHERE TO FIND IT: JAMA Pediatrics, June 24

Perceived effects of stress tied to risk of heart attack

People who think their stress is negatively affecting their health may be at increased risk for a heart attack, according to a European study that suggests people’s perceptions about their health may lead to reality.

The study followed more than 7,000 men and women whose average age was 49 working in London for nearly two decades. Those who filled out a questionnaire saying they believed their stress was affecting their health “a lot or extremely” were twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with those who said they didn’t consider their stress to be a problem.

Even when the researchers took into account their medical history as well as physical and psychological health, the risk for a heart attack among those who perceived that stress was affecting their health nearly doubled.

The findings indicate that doctors should consider their patients perceptions when managing stress-related health concerns, the authors wrote.

BOTTOM LINE: People who think their stress is negatively affecting their health may be at increased risk for a heart attack.

CAUTIONS: The study relied on a self-reported survey, which may not have been accurate.

WHERE TO FIND IT: European Heart Journal, June 27

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