Kids’ Lifestyle Changes Bring Later Heart Health
Study Shows Changing Unhealthy Habits of Children Can Help Prevent Heart Disease in Adults
Tracking Cholesterol Levels continued...
Those who did remain high risk throughout the study gained more body fat and were more likely to begin or continue smoking during the follow-up period, the study showed.
“Unhealthy lifestyle changes that occur between youth and adulthood affect whether an individual maintains, loses, or develops high-risk blood lipid and lipoprotein levels in adulthood,” the researchers write. “Prevention and intervention programs designed to promote weight control in the first instance, but also physical activity, not smoking, and improvements in socioeconomic circumstances in the time between youth and adulthood, are important for youth with and without high-risk lipid and lipoprotein levels.”
“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.”