How to Prevent Heart Disease in Kids

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, Health & Safety: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Health & Safety: Big Kids, Health & Safety: Tweens, Health & Safety: Teens

Heart disease is a growing epidemic that affects more than 60 million people across North America. It is also known as cardiovascular disease. It comes in several forms such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, angina pectoris (chest pain), heart attacks and strokes.

While heart disease has traditionally been studied in the adult population, recent research suggests that signs of heart disease -- such as high cholesterol -- are being found in kids as early as seven or eight years old. Unless we change our daily lifestyle habits, the future health of our population is in jeopardy. The cost to our health care system is astronomical; so much so that the focus has finally switched to prevention. Once again, regular exercise is at the top of the to-do list.

Tips for preventing heart disease, after the jump...

Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Understanding the risk factors to this disease is the first step in prevention. Having a family member with the disease and aging are both risk factors. Ethnicity also plays a role. First Nations people and those of African or South Asian descent are at greater risk of heart disease, as they are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes. Unfortunately, these factors are out of our control.

On the other hand, other high risk factors such as being overweight and lack of daily exercise are easy to control. In a study conducted by Dr. Nelly Mauras, Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology at Nemours Children's Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, it was revealed that childhood obesity increases the risk of heart disease and stroke in kids as young as 7 years of age, even without the presence of other cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure. Finally, smoking increases the risk of heart disease as it contributes to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, increases the risk of blood clots, reduces the oxygen in your blood, increases your blood pressure and makes your heart work harder (www.heartandstroke.com).

What can parents do?
Parents need to make the extra effort to get their kids active, to maintain a healthy body weight through proper nutrition, to ensure their kids do not smoke, and once again be the solid support system. The message is abundantly clear that we need to keep our kids fit to avoid getting caught in this downward spiral. The surgeon general has taken the first step by recommending 60 minutes a day of vigorous physical activity. To get started, don't worry about "what" activities your kids need to do. Just get them moving. Walking, hiking, jogging, playing at the park or playground, sports and swimming are all simple activities that your kids can enjoy.

Reggie Reyes is a certified kinesiologist and personal trainer. He is the president and founder of pt4kids, a company that creates specialized training programs for kids all ages and fitness levels.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.