According to the American Heart Association, there is substantial evidence that atherosclerosis (fatty plaque deposits in the walls of the blood vessels) begins in childhood. High cholesterol in early childhood continues to increase and can lead to coronary heart disease.
In a report presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress2010, Dr Kevin Harris revealed that children as young as 13 years old were showing signs of blood vessel stiffness seen in much older adults. Aortic stiffness is an early indicator of coronary disease in obese children and a clear indicator that these children are at risk of premature coronary disease.
A surprising finding of this study shared by Dr. Harris is that even though the blood lipid levels, were normal and blood pressure not significantly higher, there was still notable stiffness and other indications found during ultrasounds of the hearts in 63 obese children that placed these children at high risk for early incidences of heart disease or even premature death related to coronary disease.
As the number of obese children has tripled in the past 25 years, questions and concerns as to the ability to reverse these trends also continue to be a topic of debate.
As with adult obesity, poor nutritional choices and lack of physical activity is at the root of most childhood obesity.
Help Lower Your Child’s Risk of Obesity Related Coronary Disease
Though there is an ongoing debate concerning the benefits and risks of prescribing statin medications to children to control cholesterol levels, there are steps you can take to help your child maintain or reach a healthy weight.
• Encourage regular aerobic activity lasting 30-60 minutes a day at least five to six days a week. Don’t make exercising a punishment, but find ways to make it a fun family-centered activity and the whole family will benefit.
• Know your child’s risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. Be sure to have your child evaluated and monitored for both these conditions. Early diagnosis and treatment can lower the risk of complications later in life.
• Encourage all children age 2 and older to eat a wide variety of food including fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains and nuts. A diet low in saturated fat will go a long way in lowering their risk for high cholesterol and obesity.
Childhood obesity is a complicated combination of genetics, environment and learned patterns of behavior. By working together as a family to safeguard your child’s cardiovascular health everyone benefits. Children are much more likely to follow by example when it comes to changing their eating patterns and activity levels.
Simply having an established routine of family meals where everyone eats a variety of healthy foods, adequate sleep and quality family time that includes physical activity such as ballgames, hiking or roller skating can establish the importance of good nutrition and physical exercise that can lower your child’s risk for coronary disease in the years ahead. A study published in the March 2010 issue of the journal Pediatrics show that these healthy habits of family meals, adequate sleep and limited TV time (replacing that time with family centered physical activity) are all associated with lowering the risk of childhood obesity. While one of these routines lowers the risk of obesity, it is obvious that when used together the benefits are increase in all areas.
While many adults may feel it is too little too late to try and change the outcome of their own health regarding obesity and heart disease, we owe it to our children and the quality of life as adults to find ways to lower their risks in whatever ways we can.
Obese Children Have Signs of Heart Disease Typically Seen in Middle-Aged Adults. Medical News Today. Retrieved online at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/205828.php
Cholesterol and Atherosclerosis in Children. American Heart Association, Retrieved online at http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4499
Family Meals, Adequate Sleep and Limited TV May Lower Childhood Obesity. (Feb 9, 2010), Science Daily, Retrieved online from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100208091916.htm