What Kids Can Do Now to Prevent Heart Disease Later | Overview
Children hold such a large place in our hearts. During American Heart Month, take a moment to make sure their hearts are the healthiest they can be. Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in adults, and prevention is the best way to avoid it. Your child’s lifestyle now may have an impact on their heart health later. Luckily, there are many ways to control risk factors early in life.
Children 3-5 years old should stay active throughout the day. Kids 6-17 years old should aim for 1 hour or more of moderate-vigorous exercise each day. 3 days a week should include aerobic activities that strengthen the bones, such as running or jumping, and 3 days a week should include activities that build muscles, such as climbing or doing push-ups. Try to make daily exercise a family activity!
Maintain a healthy diet.
The buildup of fatty plaque that causes high cholesterol in adults begins building during childhood and progresses. Foods that are low in cholesterol include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. (Monitoring fat consumption should not begin before the age of 2. Infants need fat for growth and development.) Small changes that can make a big difference include switching to low-fat milk and yogurt. Also, switch your bread and cereals to whole grain. Dietary changes can have a positive impact on the whole family.
While teens may be aware of the dangers of cigarettes, they could still be opting to use some of the smoking methods that are rising in popularity. For example, one vape can contain as much nicotine as an entire box of cigarettes. Hookah smokers inhale even more carbon monoxide and tobacco than they would form a cigarette. And despite the recent legalization of marijuana in many states, it is important to be aware of the cardiovascular effects of smoke inhalation. Talk to your adolescents and teens about the dangers of these activities, regardless of their popularity.
Know your family’s history.
High blood pressure (hypertension) in kids often goes unnoticed due to a lack of symptoms. This condition is not present at birth but can be hereditary. Be sure to schedule your child’s annual well visits to ensure your child’s blood pressure is taken yearly and pay special attention to it if they have a family history.
“Over 14 million children in the U.S. are affected by obesity, putting them at risk for heart disease and other health complications. Wellness is a family issue. The first step toward a healthy lifestyle for your child is to lead by example and make healthy changes in your own life. Your habits will make an impact that your child will take with them into adulthood.” says Boston Children’s Health Physicians’ Chief of Pediatric Cardiology, Dr. Robert Vincent.
The heart is one of the most important organs in the body. You can introduce the heart to your little ones by pointing to it on the left side of their chest. Have them feel their heartbeat with their hand or feel a pulse on their wrist and explain how the heart pumps blood throughout their body. Don’t assume your child is too young to understand because it is never too early to instill healthy habits. This month, try to make at least one lifestyle change that gives your heart a little extra love.