Arterial plaque starts building up in the teen years, and it’s a good time to instill good diet, exercise and sleep habits.
It’s never too early to take care of your heart, especially if you have a family history of heart disease. And it’s never too early to get kids started with heart-healthy habits that will lower cholesterol and last a lifetime. We spoke to Ibrahim Fahsah, M.D., cardiovascular diseases physician and interventional cardiologist with Norton Heart & Vascular Institute, about the importance of lowering cholesterol in kids and how to get started.
Why Start Early?
Research indicates that arterial plaque (the gunk that builds up in your arteries and can lead to strokes and heart attacks) begins building up in the teen years. Also, it’s the best time to instill good behaviors like diet choices, exercise habits and sleep. Teaching children to make healthy choices from the beginning can prevent risk factors from blooming into a heart condition later in life.
Attend a Free, Heart-Healthy Cooking Class
Class themes change each month and cover topics such as plant-based nutrition, whole grains and comfort foods.
Classes fill up fast, so sign up today.
How Do I Get Started?
Heart health is a combination of genetics and lifestyle choices, so help kids learn to do their part. Making choices to live a heart healthy lifestyle can be implemented easily and don’t have to cost much time, effort or money. Do what works for your family.
Remember that the idea of only lowering cholesterol can miss the point. Cholesterol doesn’t go away. If you lower the amount of cholesterol in a blood test, you’ve merely slowed the buildup of plaque that could cause a health issue later.
Get the Kids Moving and Offer Healthy Food Choices
Make exercise and mealtime a family affair. Get children involved in school or community sports or just take walks after dinner. If you’re a grandparent, go cheer at the next game or meet — let them see you supporting every basket, goal or race. Invite older children to plan, shop for and cook a meal. Talk with younger kids about how exercise and good food make us strong and healthy. Keep the fast-food trips to a minimum and always have fruits, vegetables and whole grains on hand for snacks.
Talk to — and About — the Doctor
Help children see that your health care provider is a partner in health. Take them for routine checkups and screenings. When it’s appropriate, tell them when it’s time for your own health screenings. Young adults are old enough to understand family history and how their habits (such as not taking up smoking) now can affect their health later.
Set a Good Example
What you do can carry more weight than what you say, so look at ways you can model the lifestyle you want children to have. For example, Dr. Fahsah challenges his patients who smoke to give their families the gift of quitting smoking. When he sees patients who smoke, he’ll ask about their children or grandchildren.
“Do you want to see them grow up and go to college?” he’ll ask.
When the patient says, “yes,” he suggests stopping smoking.
An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure when it comes to heart health. Get your family started today on the path to heart health.