“Oh, high blood pressure? That’s only in old people”
“Heart problems only occur in adults or old people”
Aren’t these your thoughts too? Most of us think that problems related to high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart problems only occur in adults or older people. In reality, it can affect people of all ages, including children.
Studies show a significant rise in the number of children affected by non-communicable diseases like hypertension and heart diseases. Commemorating World Heart Health Day, we would like to highlight that taking care of the heart needs to start in childhood.
Obesity; the main culprit
Although there are a number of factors that can adversely affect heart health in children, obesity remains the main culprit. Obesity also hastens the occurrence of other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and so on. High BP is an important risk factor for heart diseases.
A study that looked at the relationship of childhood obesity with blood pressure in Indian school children (5–16 years) reported that high blood pressure was more prevalent in obese children. So what? Here’s the catch – the problem of high blood pressure that begins in childhood persists through adolescence well into adulthood. In a nutshell, a hypertensive child is a hypertensive adult.
Experts also believe that childhood and adolescent obesity has a compelling impact on the structure and functioning of the heart; so it is very important to ensure that children fall in the healthy weight range.
What can you do to ensure good heart health in your child?
Prevention is always better than cure. Although factors such as family history or genetic predisposition cannot be changed or avoided, we can take control of other risk factors to deter or delay the disease.
- Children are what they eat: Healthy eating habits not only includes healthy, nutritious food but also regular meal times. Excess of anything is bad. A diet high in fat, carbs and/or sugar contribute to obesity and excess of sodium (in the form of salt, sauces, MSG) make way for high BP.
- Hustle the muscle: with the advent of technology in every phase of life, screen time (like TV, mobile-use, video games) has substantially increased. Activity and exercise have undoubtedly taken a back seat. Physical activity strengthens heart muscles, helps blood vessels branch out more, regulates blood pressure and also increases HDL (good) cholesterol.
Children and adolescents must get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity every day. Examples include bike riding, swimming, jogging, football, aerobics or dancing.
- Let the children kick butt: be it electronic cigarettes or smokeless tobacco, they are all harmful. Most children may get on this track due to peer pressure or stress. On the other hand, passive smoking can also be the reason.
It’s best to form good habits early in life so we don’t have to break bad habits later.
So it is time to change our way of thinking and understand that good heart health starts from childhood.