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A Child's Heart Health Begins with Their Parents

A child's heart health begins with their parents

Children who are active have a much smaller chance of having cardiac problems as those that eat a high fat diet and are not active. (Photo: Getty Images)

Did you know cardiovascular disease is theNo. 1 killer in the United States, with more than 600,000 men and women dying from the disease each year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is a heart attack every 40 seconds in the US.

Typical risk factors for cardiac related disease includes obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol; diabetes, physical inactivity and of course, smoking and genetics.

Essentially, a family history of heart disease can be a hereditary culprit, along with diet, and poor lifestyle choices having significant effects on the development of the disease.

Our busy, fast-paced lifestyles cause many Americans to attain dietary habits of consuming excess calories and fat; specifically, trans-fat and processed sugar.

These high fat, high caloric diets are a major cause and effect of America’s high rate of obesity. There is abundant clinical evidence of how diet influences the development of heart disease and why parents should be consciousness of the dietary choices given to their children.

As a parent or care giver you can easily help your child develop healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices.

Experiences influence children, but parents are the most important influencers and role models to teach children good habits.

The best predictor of a child’s health, weight and lifestyle are the parents who set good examples.

Overall, healthy habits taught at early ages can help children lower their risk of becoming obese, developing cardiac related problems and/or heart disease.

Healthy nutrition should start as early as infancy with breastfeeding.

Once your child begins eating solid foods, introduce nutritional foods early and often.

Sometimes toddlers need to try foods multiple times before they will accept them.

Encourage play time as soon as they start crawling to keep them active.

All children older than 2 years should have low fat dairy products; 1 percent or fat free milk.

If a child is younger than 2 years, overweight or at risk for becoming overweight, has a family history of high cholesterol or early heart disease, reduced saturated fat dietary choices may be appropriate.

Between the ages of 2 and 5, encourage children to choose foods with less fat, saturated fat and trans-fats.

By age 5, their food choices, like yours, should include: low fat dairy products, skinless chicken, fish, lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

In addition, a healthy-heart diet includes: five fruits and vegetables daily, two hours or less of screen time per day, one hour of physical activity per day and no sugary or sweetened drinks.

It’s important to create a home where healthy choices are available and encouraged.

Make it fun. Play games. Cook and eat meals together. Grow a family garden. Limit fast food, take-out meals and eating out. Eat a high fiber diet rich in calcium. Serve appropriate portion sizes.

If you smoke, try to quit, and don’t smoke in the house, car or around your children. Children whose parents smoke are at an increased risk of smoking.

Children should have annual wellness visits with their pediatric provider to detect abnormalities and access risk factors.

If there is a family history of heart disease (parents or grandparents) make sure to let your child’s pediatric office know.

It’s also important to note, the rate of heart disease tends to keep pace with increased cholesterol levels.

According to the American Heart Association, a heart healthy diet from an early age lowers cholesterol, and if that diet is consistent through adolescence and young adulthood, there should be a reduced risk of coronary artery disease.

Your pediatric provider will screen your child’s cholesterol from age 11 to 13, and again from 17 to 21. In addition, if your child engages in competitive sports, they will need a sports physical exam to identify risk of heart disease and other illnesses.

Screening of blood pressure starts early, at the age of 3. If blood pressure is elevated, a low salt diet will be recommended. Body mass index, otherwise known as BMI, is an appropriate measurement of obesity done annually beginning at the age of 2.

Your pediatrician will let you know if your child is considered overweight based on their BMI.

Cardiac disease and/or coronary artery disease is not an inevitable consequence of aging. It is an acquired disease with well-known risk factors. Unfortunately, there is now evidence of emerging risk factors in children.

Focusing on a healthy lifestyle, takes commitment from parents, caregivers and all involved in a child’s rearing.

Fortunately, the rewards are great. Quality time together, and most importantly better health for you and your family.

Story Credit: https://www.floridatoday.com/story/life/wellness/2019/02/02/childs-heart-health-begins-their-parents/2755342002/

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