Rebecca J. Stahl, MA
Cardiovascular disease includes conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, such as atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries), heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. While you may think that these conditions are more of a concern for adults, researchers are now highlighting how important it is to prevent cardiovascular disease from developing in children.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has developed guidelines to help promote heart health in children. It’s never too early to think about your child’s future! Learn how doctors can identify whether your child is at risk, what can be done to prevent cardiovascular problems, and which treatments can improve your child’s chances of being a healthy adult.
Based on the latest research, the NHLBI’s guidelines provide ways for doctors to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease in children. Recommended screenings include:
Other important factors that the doctor will consider include whether your child:
By evaluating your child, the doctor can address conditions that are closely linked to cardiovascular problems, like obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Focusing on the areas of nutrition, physical activity, and tobacco exposure, the NHLBI recommends prevention and treatment guidelines for children of all ages. You can play an integral role at home by:
In addition to these lifestyle changes, the doctor may need to prescribe medicine if your child is diagnosed with a condition like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. No matter what your child’s age or risk factors, there are ways to make each day healthier. Creating routines that focus on good nutrition, exercise, and healthy habits—like not smoking—can help your child set the stage for a long life and a strong heart.
American Council on Exercise
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Childhood obesity facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm. Updated June 7, 2012. Accessed June 18, 2012.
Cholesterol and atherosclerosis in children. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Cholesterol-and-Atherosclerosis-in-Children_UCM_305952_Article.jsp. Updated June 20, 2012. Accessed June 18, 2012.
Expert panel on integrated guidelines for cardiovascular health and risk reduction in children and adolescents:
summary report. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cvd_ped/summary.htm. Published 2012. Accessed June 18, 2012.
Food groups. Choose MyPlate.gov website. Available at:http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Accessed June 19, 2012.
NHLBI integrated guidelines for pediatric cardiovascular risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated February 28, 2012. Accessed June 18, 2012.
Last reviewed June 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
and Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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