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Preventing Heart Disease in Children

separator Increasingly, experts in the field of cardiology are seeing an increase in risk factors for heart disease in young children. Studies of young adults, ages 29 to 39, who currently have heart disease and have been monitored since childhood, show that there were three factors that were present when they were younger:

—High blood pressure


—High blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides)

The way children lived their lives had a significant influence on whether or not they developed high blood sugar, high blood fats and obesity. Those who ate well, got regular exercise and didn't smoke cigarettes were most likely to have better heart health.

Some good guidelines to follow

There's so much parents can do to help prevent their children from developing heart disease. Here are some guidelines:

—Decrease the amount of added sugars in your child's diet. You'll find a lot of added sugars in soft drinks, juiced, fruit-added yogurt, milkshakes from fast-food restaurants, sugary cereals, maple syrup.

—Read food labels to figure out correct portion sizes.

—Add fish to the family diet in place of red meat, and make sure the kids eat it regularly.

—Remove skin from chicken and turkey.

— Include dried beans in your meals, to replace meat. Vegetarian chili is a good choice.

—Compare the labels on cereal boxes, and choose cereals that are lower in sugar and salt.

—Use lean cuts of meat.

—Use reduced fat or non-fat dairy products.

Parents are role models and guides

From the time children are born, parents guide, shape and control the dietary intake. A healthy foundation, with good habits early on, will create an awareness of heart health as children become teenagers. The more they know about healthy foods, and the more accustomed they are to including healthy foods in their daily lives, the more likely they'll be to keep those healthy habits going beyond the teen years and even into the years when they themselves become parents. Here are some general guidelines for parents who want to have a heart healthy lifestyle for the whole family:

—Breast feed your baby whenever possible, and try to continue it for at least 12 months.

—Have a set schedule for meals and snacks, and stick to it.

—Control portion size.

—When you're at the grocery store and when you're cooking, talk with your child about the selections you make and why you make them.

—Make sure that other people who care for your child know how you want your child to eat.

—Make regular physical exercise a family activity that everybody participates in.

The American Heart Association's Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young.
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