Day 21: Heart Health is a Family Affair

For many people, heart disease develops over years, and it can begin at a young age. So heart-healthy habits should start early, too.

A study published in the Jan. 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine reported that people who reached middle age without smoking or having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes had substantially lower risks of death due to heart disease at age 80 than people with two or more of these risk factors.

In other words, a healthy lifestyle brings major benefits later in life. The key, therefore, is getting children and young adults off to a heart-healthy start.

As a parent and a caregiver, UI Heart and Vascular Center cardiologist Theresa Brennan, MD, understands the stress placed on today’s families. In this video, she discusses communicating with children about healthy habits and how a little preparation can help ease an every-day-hectic lifestyle:

Learn more from the American Heart Association on “How to Make a Healthy Home.”

Today’s Heart-Health Topic: Children’s Weight Issues
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), one-third of American children and teenagers today are overweight or obese—nearly triple the rate from 1963. Childhood obesity now tops drug abuse and smoking as the leading concern among parents.

Today, obesity is causing a range of childhood health problems that typically were not seen until adulthood—high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and elevated cholesterol levels, for example. There are emotional and psychological effects, too—obese children are more likely to have low self-esteem, negative body image, and depression.

It’s a serious issue for many families. Being overweight in childhood has been linked to higher and earlier death rates in adulthood, and obese children have an 80 percent chance of remaining obese their entire lives, the AHA notes.

Dwayne Campbell, MD

Helping your kids achieve and maintain a healthy body weight is important. It may not always be easy, but it can be done, says Dwayne Campbell, MD, a cardiologist with UI Heart and Vascular Center.

“Parents lead by example in so many ways,” Campbell says. “If your kids see you making healthy food choices and getting physically active, they will notice. Small, incremental steps over time—gradually replacing cookies and candy with fruits and vegetables or getting kids involved in choosing and planning meals, for example—will be more effective in the long run than immediately throwing out all the junk food.”

Children (and adults) like to be praised for doing something right, so keep things positive. By setting realistic goals and participating together, you can make heart-healthy eating and exercise a family affair.

Learn more about whether obesity is an issue in your house.

Go Red Girl Scouts
UI Heart and Vascular Center is proud to be a partner with the AHA and the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois to offer the Go Red Girl Scouts Patch Program. The goal is to help raise awareness that heart disease is a serious women’s health issue—one that starts with lifestyle habits developed early in life.

The patch activities and online tools help girls make healthy choices and encourage the women and girls in their lives to do the same. The program includes a section on family activities that range from planning a family outing that involves physical activity to planting fresh vegetables in your garden.

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