By Robert Harizi, MD
Chief of Cardiology
Reliant Medical Group
Many of us probably think that heart problems are something that only happens to those who are middle-aged or older. However, every year heart disease is becoming more prevalent in people who are younger. This is because the different health problems that can lead to heart disease are happening to people at younger ages. For this reason, promoting good cardiovascular health in children has never been more important.
Doctors and researchers have noticed a rise in the number of teenagers diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two known risk factors for heart disease. That’s why it’s important for parents to take an active role and promote a healthy lifestyle. Instilling heart-healthy habits such as proper diet and exercise when children are young is the key to helping them enjoy better health as they get older.
Risk factors for heart problems can begin at a very early age. In fact, the earliest risk factor for heart disease (other than genetics) is a mother who smokes while pregnant. In addition to avoiding smoking, experts also recommend that mothers breast-feed infants, as this has been found to lower a child’s risk of developing heart disease later in life.
Some key guidelines for heart health include:
- At least one hour of physical activity for children every day
- A well-balanced diet that limits the consumption of salt and sugar-sweetened beverages and includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Maintaining a healthy weight for corresponding age
- Total avoidance of smoking
- Screening for cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood sugar and high blood pressure
Another important risk factor for heart disease is not getting enough sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for teenagers is eight to ten hours a day. Many teens with their busy schedules do not get the proper sleep that they need. Adults and teenagers who do not get enough sleep are more likely to have high blood pressure, belly fat, abnormal blood lipid levels, and insulin resistance, all of which increase the risk for heart disease.
The fact is, an overall healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent heart problems in children now and later in life. We know that unhealthy habits like smoking usually start in the teen years. Bad habits are hard to break and parents can play a significant role in helping to stop them before they start.
If you think your children are exhibiting risk factors for heart disease it’s best to work with your child’s primary care provider to address any concerns. Addressing health issues sooner rather than later will help your children enjoy good heart health throughout their lifetime.
About Robert Harizi, MD, Chief of Cardiology
During his time as a cardiologist, Dr. Robert Harizi has learned that each patient is truly unique and often needs individualized therapy. “After making a diagnosis, I try to tailor the treatment which has the highest likelihood of success to that person. Before you begin any treatment plan, you have to take into consideration a patient’s lifestyle, what their job is, what their attitudes are – a comprehensive approach. It’s very...View profile View posts by this doctor