Dr.Andrew Myers: Prevention Should Start Early
As parents, we are charged withthe safety and well-being of our kids. That means paying attention tothings like seat belts, bicycling helmets, cross walks and “strangerdanger”. But one of the biggest factors that most parents overlook isdisease prevention for their children.
I know, it sounds a bit far-fetched; we as parents tend to think “All kids arehealthy, right?” Not according to the research.
A number of studies over the past several years point to childhood obesity as amajor risk factor for heart disease. A study published in the journalPediatrics, showed the inflammatory changes that cause heart disease wereclearly present at age 3 and worsened up to the age of 17. Otherresearch, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows thatchildhood obesity is the strongest factor linked to prematuredisease-associated death, more than doubling the risk.
So when we think about protecting our children, we need to add their health tothe top of the list.
By The Numbers: Heart Disease Risk and Kids
- According to national statistics, about 10 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have high cholesterol - total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL. (NHANES III [1988-94], CDC/NCHS)
- The well-known Bogalusa Heart Study found that overweight children between the ages of 5 and 17 were more than twice as likely to have high cholesterol levels as those of normal weight children.
- About 80 percent of people who use tobacco begin before age 18. Smoking tobacco increases blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance and increases the tendency for blood to clot. () and ()
- 37.2 percent of high school students spend three or more hours a day watching TV.
- According to the Framingham Children's Study, by the end of adolescence, BMI (a measure of obesity) was highest for those children who watched the most television during childhood.
Being responsible as a parent canhelp your child avoid obesity, heart disease and diabetes later in life. So howcan we best shape the health and wellness of our children?
Well, the problems that lead to heart disease in adults, turn out to be thesame in children – poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle and excess weight gain.
Here’s what the American Heart Association says, “Children age 2 years andolder should be encouraged to eat at least five servings of fruits andvegetables daily as well as a wide variety of other foods low in saturated fatand cholesterol. Doing this will help them maintain normal blood cholesterollevels and promote cardiovascular health." ()
Here are five solid recommendations to consider as you seek to promote your children’shealth:
As a physician, and a parent, I urge you to consider the opportunitythat you have to promote your children’s health by making sound choices foryourself and for them. By building a healthy lifestyle for your family,you may be giving your children the greatest gift anyone can bestow: alifetime of good health.
- Provide your children with a safe and secure home full of love and support.
- Be a good example of a healthy lifestyle by eating right, exercising frequently and maintaining a healthy weight.
- Feed your kids lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and a variety of foods low in saturated fat and high in nutrition.
- Turn off the television and find ways to build movement (and exercise) into your children’s life.
- Use love and recognition to reward your children, not sweets and candy.