Heart Disease Prevention In Children
Dr. C. S. Das*
Retd. Prof. & Head, Pediatrics Silchar Medical College *
Introduction
Heart disease later in life, is influenced by lifestyle factors that take root in childhood as was by parental behavior during pregnancy. Raised blood pressure in children is single most contributing factor for future heart disease. Once considered only a threat to adults, high BP is now affecting more children jeopardizing their potential for a healthy future for a growing number of kids of our society poor lifestyle habits such as an unhealthy diet lead to high BP. High BP in children has become a natural extension of the nation wide increase in obese children. Recent studies have confirmed that unhealthy factors in mothers during pregnancy affect the fetus adversely and contribute to their becoming future heart patients. It has been observed that BP in 5 years old offspring of smoker mother was more than in non-smoker mothers. Parent's weight also influenced the BP of the offspring. Breast feeding only for the first 6 months of life, is associated with low BP in the children. Higher age of the mother during pregnancy correlates with higher BP in the children. Not only children, even babies can have higher BP. The American Heart Association recommends that all children of age 3 yrs or more should have yearly BP measured. Early detection of high BP will improve health care, of the children and will lessen incidence of future heart attacks. It has been found that apart from high BP, a cluster of risk factors such as impaired fasting blood sugar, low HDL, elevated triglycerides, and obesity (measured by waist circumference) are found in probable cardiac patients. These factors together are known as metabolic syndrome. A person who has atleast three of the risk factors meets the criteria to be diagnosed as metabolic syndrome. The most commonly observed risk factors are low level HDL, raised triglycerides and obesity. A recent clinical discovery gaining importance is, if in a hypertensive child the left atrium is also enlarged, he is a probable candidate for heart attack. This may allow us to intervene early for a better future. Children and adolescents with hypertension should be evaluated using echocardiography to determine the left atrial size as well as left ventricular mass.
Strategies to prevent heart disease in children
  • 30-60 minutes of moderate physical exercise daily is advisable for all children including walking, running, swimming, bicycle riding, dancing and team sports.
  • Limit the time the child spends watching television or playing on the computer to less than 2 hrs per day.
  • Dental care-brushing teeth well and regular dental flossing will prevent dental caries and cavities. Bacteria in the mouth can enter the blood stream and locate in the heart causing a serious infection.
  • The children should be served healthy diet-more fruits and vegetables, whole grain, low fat dairy products, legumes and fish can protect heart, Omega3 fatty acid, a type of polyunsaturated fat (source-fish) is beneficial. Avoid saturated fat (butter, cheese, milk, coconut oil).

Tran saturated fat is more harmful as it lowers HDL and raises LDL (source-deep fried fat food, bakery products, margarine, snack food etc).
Good nutrition tips
  • Avoid salty foods.
  • Stay away with fatty foods.
  • Do not substitute snacks for a complete meal.
  • Give preference to meat with little fat as it contains more iron and is easily digested.

We should try to intervene and prevent the probable patients from going to stroke and suffer.
References :
  1. Cincinnati children-2000 pediatric health news release-nov 13, 2000-discovery may help prevent heart disease in children and adolescents.
  2. This can prevent heart disease in children - Christi L Maker www.seaford. K. de. us/heart/prevent.htm
  3. Heart disease prevention: mayoclinic.com
  4. Heart disease prevention begins in the womb-contributed by William Angelos/12th October, 2004.
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