Heart disease, the number one cause of death in the US is especially common for people with a family history of heart disease, people who are overweight or obese, diabetics and smokers. Age and gender are also contributing factors. And while heart disease is traditionally associated with adults, recent studies indicate that the risk factors and root causes of heart disease are widespread among children and adolescents.
While it’s been known for some time that being overweight was potentially harmful, The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a report that only solidifies this case. Their findings indicate that body mass index (BMI) in teenagers just 2 points higher than the average had a far increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The same study showed that for teens with a BMI 4 points higher than the average, the risk for heart disease doubled.
We know this subject can be frightening for parents, after all, we know there is nothing more important than the health and wellness of your kids. Below are some common risk factors that you can monitor in your kids to help prevent heart disease.
Warning Signs for Heart Disease in Youth
High blood pressure
Though rare for children, high blood pressure (or hypertension) is a serious condition that often goes undetected due to a lack of obvious symptoms. Make sure that your child’s blood pressure is checked at his or her yearly check-up. Children born into families with a history of high blood pressure should have their blood pressure watched more closely.
How it can be treated: Since children who are overweight usually have higher blood pressure than those who are not, it’s important to stress maintaining a healthy body weight. Promote increased physical activity. Preparing healthy meals and limiting a child’s daily salt intake is also recommended.
Although the effects of high cholesterol are rarely seen during youth, fatty plaque buildup that begins in childhood can ultimately continue into adulthood. This process is known as atherosclerosis. In time, atherosclerosis is known to lead directly to heart disease. For families with a history of high cholesterol, it is essential to be aware of the added risk.
How it can be treated: 30-60 minutes of daily exercise is recommended. Let’s face it, it’s no fun to talk with your kids about nutrition, but it is definitely important. Try to stress the benefits of foods with whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Maintain a healthy body weight and avoid the risks associated with childhood obesity.
According to the CDC, more than 90,000 people in the US die annually from heart diseases caused by smoking. For young people who would otherwise have a low risk of heart disease, cigarette smoking can drastically increase the risk of heart disease. The longer someone smokes, the higher the risk of heart disease, so starting at a young age is especially dangerous.
How it can be treated: First and foremost, warn your kids of the dangers of smoking. Since the vast majority of smokers start before finishing high school, preventing smoking at a young age can often result in avoiding smoking and living a healthier life.
Our goal here at Children’s Wellness Center is not to frighten parents, though rather to educate them on the dangers of heart disease and what they can do to help. Parents and family physicians should consider the prevention of these key risk factors a top priority in the fight against heart disease. For questions about the services we offer at Children’s Wellness Center, don’t hesitate to contact us at Children’s Wellness Center at 404-303-1314.