There’s a misconception that heart disease only affects adults, but the truth is heart disease can affect anyone at any age. Even children only days, weeks, or months old can be diagnosed with heart issues. Some are born with congenital heart disease, a defect in how their hearts function or in the structure of heart muscle.
Another possible risk factor for children is obesity. As the rate of childhood obesity increases in the United States, so too does the number of children found to be stricken with heart problems.
The time to begin thinking about your child’s heart health is from the moment of birth, if not before via ultrasound and other maternal prenatal tests.
Because heart disease is the number one killer in the United States and around the world, the importance of monitoring heart health is vital. Just as adults take measures to ensure their hearts are in tip-top shape, they need to do the same for their children.
From an early age, your child can get a headstart on living a healthy life and maintaining good heart health. It’s never too early to encourage and help your children take preventative measures such as eating a healthy diet, keeping weight in optimal ranges, and exercising regularly.
What they learn today will stay with them throughout their lives.
Here’s what you can do to help your children be heart healthy:
- Make sure they maintain a healthy weight.
- Stock up on fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich whole grains and make sure they’re within reach of your children.
- Limit the amount of fat, salt, and sugar your children consume. Be mindful of fruit juices. Many of them contain added sugars.
- Speak to your children about the dangers of smoking.
- See their pediatrician regularly and discuss any issues your child might have.
- Exercise at least sixty minutes five days per week.
- Make heart health a priority for the entire family. Serve healthy meals. Go for after dinner walks. Train for a 5k as a family.
- Have regular health screenings that include screenings of blood pressure, triglyceride levels, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
- Teach your children about the risk factors for heart disease.
- Know your family history of heart disease. Knowing that could go a long way to ensuring your children are monitored and screened properly for risk factors.
Heart disease doesn’t happen in isolation. Oftentimes, it runs in families, so treating it like a family risk factor could go a long way to keeping everyone in your family healthy.
What you and your children do today could keep all of you healthy for many years to come. Do what you can now to prevent heart disease for a lifetime.
By Lisbeth Splawn