Heart Health Begins Early in Life

By Carolina Boyd

Heart disease sounds like a very adult medical issue, but it begins as early as the childhood and adolescent years. An estimated 1.3 million youths in the United States between the ages of 12 – 19 have hypertension. High blood pressure, in addition to elevated cholesterol levels and obesity, are conditions linked to health problems later in life.

“It is important for parents to teach their kids that heart health begins early,” said Dr. Tamisha Jones, Legacy’s medical director for pediatrics.

There are some simple actions parents and guardians can take to help minimize heart disease later in life.

Healthy food, healthy hearts

Fuel your child’s body with healthy meals and snacks, which include high-fiber fruits and vegetables. Parents should shop for foods low in saturated fats, trans-fat, cholesterol, salt, or added sugars. Limit juice and make sure water is available as a no-calorie alternative to sugary drinks.

Physical activity every day

Encourage your kids to take part in at least one hour of physical activity every day. When possible, set a good example by being active together and go for walks or visit a park. Set time limits for sedentary activities like watching TV or using a phone or a computer (for anything other than homework).

Wellness exams

Screening for heart disease in children and teens is important, especially if they have known risk factions like obesity, diabetes, or a family history of heart disease. Schedule annual wellness visits and sports physicals so you can monitor their blood pressure numbers or any health risks that may arise.

“Habits in childhood and adolescence are the beginning of habits for a lifetime. It’s important to set our children up for success in adulthood and that includes good health,” said Jones.