Sunday, May 29

Children and teenagers who practice heart-healthy behaviours live longer.

Children and teenagers who practice heart-healthy behaviours live longer.

A new study confirms what we've always suspected: our health and habits as children and teenagers have an impact on our health as adults. And it's not just about our health; it's also about how long we live.

What did the research measure and discover?

Nearly 40,000 people from the United States, Finland, and Australia have been enrolled in the International Childhood Cardiovascular Cohorts Consortium Outcomes Study. From the 1970s through the 1990s, they began registering them as children and have been tracking them ever since.

The effects of five risk factors were studied by the researchers:

The body mass index, or BMI, is a statistic that determines if a person's weight is within a healthy range.

total cholesterol value, which is a measure of how much pressure is imposed on the arteries when the heartbeats. systolic blood pressure, which is the highest number in a blood pressure reading and is a measure of how much pressure is placed on the arteries when the heartbeats. 

While cholesterol is necessary for the formation of cells and hormones, too much of it can cause heart disease and stroke.

triglyceride level is a measurement of the amount of fatty material in the blood. Too much of it, like too much cholesterol, raises the risk of heart disease and stroke.
smoking in youth.

The researchers followed up on all of these people, who were on average 46 years old, from 2015 to 2019. They discovered that over 800 of them had suffered a cardiovascular event (such as a heart attack or stroke), with more than 300 of them dying.

When the researchers compared the five factors' values to the results, they discovered that they were actually risk factors:

The risk of cardiovascular disease was nearly tripled in people who had higher than normal values for all of the risk variables.

The most significant risk factor was smoking, which was followed by BMI, systolic blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol.

It wasn't necessary to have all five variables to be at risk; for example, persons who were obese as youngsters were three times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease — and those with high or near-high blood pressure were twice as likely.

None of this should come as a shock, but seeing it so clearly should serve as a wake-up call, particularly for parents.

What can parents do to assist their children to navigate a path to healthy adulthood?

These four crucial steps can be taken by parents:

Find out if your child is in danger. Many parents, understandably, are unconcerned by the figures during their child's visit or the results of blood tests. Those figures, though, are crucial.

Make sure you know your child's BMI and whether or not it is healthy. A BMI of 19 to 25 is considered healthy in people. It's a little more tricky in children and teenagers; we use the BMI percentile based on age and gender. The child is overweight if the percentile is between 85 and 95; if it is over 95, the youngster is obese. The BMI and percentile can be calculated using a calculator provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Understand your child's blood pressure and whether it is normal or not. This, too, is dependent on the individual's age, gender, and height. Unfortunately, many paediatricians miss problematic blood pressures because readings that appear normal to certain children might be unhealthy, so it's crucial to double-check with your doctor. Starting at the age of three, your child's blood pressure should be monitored at every examination.

Request that your child's cholesterol and triglyceride levels be checked. This is usually done around adolescence, but it may be done earlier if a kid is overweight or has a family history of high levels. Make sure your child's paediatrician is aware if you or a close family member has excessive cholesterol or triglycerides.

Inquire about smoking with your youngster (and other substance use). Don't take it for granted that you know everything.

Take everything you've learned — and this research — very seriously. It's risky to take the "it's just baby fat" or "they have plenty of time to get healthy" approach.
If your child's BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, or triglyceride levels are high, talk to his or her doctor about what you can do — and then do it.

Whatever your child's statistics are, make sure he or she eats a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein. Limit added sugar, processed meals, and harmful fats (particularly in beverages).

The same is true for exercise: youngsters should exercise for one hour every day. If your child isn't interested in team sports (or your life doesn't lend itself to team sports), active play, going on walks, watching workout videos, or even just dancing in the living room will suffice.

Talk to your children about the dangers of smoking. Begin early, far before adolescence, when peer pressure is at its strongest. Ascertain that they are aware of the facts, and assist them in learning and practising ways to say no.

See your doctor on a regular basis. Children should see their doctor at least once a year, and if they have one of the five risk factors, they will need to see their doctor more frequently. Make these visits a priority; your child's life may be on the line.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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