We tend to associate heart health—the awareness campaigns, the screening programs, the diet and exercise plans—with adults. But heart health matters at every age, and it’s especially important to consider for kids who may be carrying too much weight.
Childhood obesity is a major national health concern. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), one child out of every three American children is considered overweight or obese. Little ones who carry too much weight may be at increased risk for heart problems down the road.
Take a moment to consider if your child’s heart could use some extra TLC:
Obese children have greater risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. In a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, 70 percent of obese youth were found to have one or more risk factors for heart disease. These risk factors include high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that obesity in adolescents is linked to high blood sugar levels and prediabetes. This condition may later lead to type 2 diabetes.
Obese kids are more likely to be obese adults. According to the CDC, when children and adolescents suffer from obesity, they’re at higher risk for the same condition when they grow up. Obesity also puts kids in danger of developing a wide range of other health problems as adults, including:
Lifestyle choices help protect children’s heart health. The CDC reports that healthy eating and exercise habits can keep kids from becoming obese, and developing related conditions like heart disease. According to the AHA, eating right and exercising helps kids control their weight and reduce their blood pressure. Families can play an important role in helping kids maintain a low-fat diet and stay active.
An hour of exercise may help prevent heart disease. The AHA recommends that children and adolescents get a minimum of 60 minutes of exercise each day. This physical activity should be moderate to vigorous in intensity. Get creative—anything from a scavenger hunt to a family game of tag can make physical activity more fun.
Eating the rainbow for better heart health. Making small but lasting changes in diet is the best way to approach weight problems in children, states the AHA. Along with getting more exercise, work on helping kids to take small steps to eat better. Eating foods of many colors—like the rainbow—is a good start. Let kids help find fruits and veggies in blues, oranges, yellows, greens, and reds on your next shopping trip. Substitute these choices over snacks with high sugar, fat, or salt content.
HealthAhead Hint: Keep Kids Heart Smart
Heart health matters for kids, too. Now is the best time to help your children build lifelong healthy habits. Could your kids eat healthier and exercise more? If the answer is yes, it’s time to get started making some small, healthy changes. The effort you, and your children, put in now may make a big difference for their lifestyle and wellbeing in the future.