Kids’ Lifestyle Changes Bring Later Heart Health
Study Shows Changing Unhealthy Habits of Children Can Help Prevent Heart Disease in Adults
“I love this study,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.
The new study results are “extraordinarily empowering,” she says. “There are many diseases that we have no control over, and here we are saying, ‘if you make lifestyle changes, don’t smoke, and watch your weight you can prevent heart disease.’”
The onus is on parents, educators, and public health advocates to buck these trends -- and the new study shows their efforts can make a difference.
“Kids learn by example, so parents need to be good role models and show their children how to eat healthfully,” she says.
“We need healthy lunches in school and to stock vending machines with water instead of soda,” Steinbaum says. “We have an obligation to give our children healthy choices, and if we don’t do that, we are setting them up for disaster.”
Many adult diseases begin in childhood, often early childhood, says Scott Kahan, MD, MPH, a preventive medicine specialist at the George Washington University Weight Management Program in Washington, D.C.
“Heart disease, in particular, has been shown to begin quite early in life in many cases,” he tells WebMD in an email. “Many children have blood pressures and cholesterol levels high enough to warrant treatment with adult medications; and rates of childhood obesity, which drive heart disease and heart disease risk factors, are spiraling upwards.”
This study adds further data to the commonsense notion that prevention is the best medicine, he says.
“It suggests that we should initiate prevention efforts in children [and that] in particular, promoting healthful eating and physical activity, preventing the initiation of tobacco use, and ensuring access to high-quality education is likely to benefit children in many ways, including preventing high cholesterol levels and ultimately perhaps heart disease,” he says. “We need to continue studying this issue to confirm and extend their results.”