“It’s never too early to instill healthy heart habits,” says Michael Gewitz, MD, William Russell McCurdy Physician-in-Chief and Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. “In our preventative cardiology program, parents and children learn about the ways to protect their hearts together.”
First, parents should help their children develop a diet with appropriate caloric, salt and fat intake. “Because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach,” he says, “families should discuss this issue with their primary care physician.” Sugary drinks, like soda and fruit juice, should be eliminated as much as possible.
Next, it’s very important to help children engage in a consistent aerobic exercise program, including vigorous walking and running.
Third, parents should instill in children a negative attitude toward smoking, any type of tobacco use and vaping. Also, they should ask about their child’s blood pressure information during the doctor visit, since it can be as important as knowing his or her immunization status. Lastly, parents should have their child’s cholesterol level checked during the preteen or teenage years. “If parents emphasize diet and exercise, and children learn how these simple precautions can be important,” says Dr. Gewitz, “eventually when children become adults, they’ll be on the path to a healthy lifestyle that lasts a lifetime.”
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