In Studio: Health expert talks about heart disease in children

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) - Although you may not see heart attacks and strokes until middle age, the process of cardiovascular disease can begin early in life — often as children.

Health expert, Karen Owoc talked to KRON4’s Marty Gonzalez about the importance of identifying who’s at risk and what parents can do to prevent or delay it.

In a study of young American children, over 50% of children aged 10-14 years showed evidence of early heart disease (fatty streaks and plaque accumulated in the arteries). A higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is associated with:

  • Obesity
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of CVD
  • Smoking

Karen says overweight children and adolescents are more likely to become overweight adults which raises their risk of other risk factors (high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol).

  • Generally, overweight children are inactive.
  • Inactivity at any age can result in developing chronic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • Inactivity can lead to lifelong habits.
  • School-age children should engage in 60+ minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Exercise should be appropriate for their age and level of development as well as enjoyable and safe.

Children should spend less than 2 hours per day doing sedentary non-academic activities, such as watching television and playing video or computer games.

  • A research study found that kids that engage in vigorous-intensity activity were better able to concentrate and even exhibited fewer behavioral problems than kids that participated in moderate-intensity activity.
  • Vigorous-intensity exercise, e.g., soccer, basketball, football, ice skating, beach volleyball, baseball, softball, singles tennis.
  • Non-athletic kids can participate in non-competitive activities (e.g., biking, swimming, jogging, dancing, or playing games like tag).
  • The minimum recommended daily steps for 6-12 year-old children are 12,000-15,000 steps/day (about 6-7.5 miles).
  • Less than 5,000 steps/day (2.5 miles) is considered sedentary.

Strength Training

  • There's compelling evidence that children can benefit from strength training.
  • Strength training is a muscle and bone strengthening activity. It can be a safe and effective way to provide health and fitness value if children are supervised and taught the proper way to lift weights or their own body weight.

Exercise and Nutrition

  • Provide children heart-healthy meals and snacks.
  • Kids need fuel to have the energy to be physically active.
  • When kids feel good and perform well, they'll have more fun.

The Takeaway

  • Start the Cycle… Children who grow up being active are likely to grow up being active adults. By engaging in activities with your kids, you can make physical activity a memorable family affair.
  • It's a great way to spend time together, connect and be entertained.
  • Great family activities include: hikes, biking, neighborhood/nature walks, scavenger hunts, swimming, canoeing, skiing, and snowboarding.



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