Good heart health should start during childhood

Adults are not the only ones who should focus on good heart health. A UAB doctor explains when heart healthy habits need to start.

Adults are not the only ones who should focus on good heart health. One UAB primary care physician said starting heart-healthy habits at a young age can help build a future free from cardiovascular disease.

nycu_heart_kids_sHeart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The process of atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries and is known to cause heart attacks, strokes and sudden death, has been shown to begin in early childhood,” said Zachary Stone, M.D. “It’s important to concentrate on healthy lifestyles in children to prevent adult cardiovascular disease.” 

Stone outlined three areas to watch in children: diet, activity levels and smoke exposure.

“Good nutrition can help to decrease cardiovascular disease,” Stone said. “It can help prevent obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol, which are all known cardiovascular risk factors.”

A young person’s diet should be low in saturated fats and primarily consist of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, Stone suggested.

Three areas to watch in children:
  • Diet
  • Activity levels
  • Smoke exposure

“One can increase physical activity in children by limiting their sedentary activities,” Stone said, adding that parents should limit television and multimedia to 1-2 hours per day. 

“Additionally, kids should participate in at least one hour of moderate activity daily to help contribute to their cardiovascular health,” Stone explained.

Stone also suggested children should be raised in a smoke-free environment.  

“Exposure to second-hand smoke is dangerous to the health of a child for many reasons, including that it can increase a child's risk of developing heart disease as an adult,” he said.