Childhood Illnesses: Colds…Chicken Pox…Heart Disease?!
Starting three years ago, it became routine to test all 9 to 11 year olds for cholesterol level. According to a December 2011 Pediatric News article, “…heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems in adulthood are often the end result of cardiovascular risk factors that went unrecognized throughout childhood…”1
I’m glad to see that we, as pediatricians, are acknowledging the fact that heart disease, like many other diseases, really starts in childhood. And while I fully support the screening process, I’m much more interested in prevention. What should we do during that first decade of our children’s lives to make the screening unnecessary? It’s all about diet and lifestyle.
Trending Toward Disease
For the past thirty years, child health has been going in the wrong direction. Childhood overweight and obesity has skyrocketed during the past 3 decades. And that trend is directly linked to the increased incidence of a variety of heart related disorders in children, most notably high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and high cholesterol levels. This is a very serious problem, given that epidemiologists are proposing that life expectancy for this rising generation of children could be shortened by as much as eight years. So, what are the primary factors leading to these disturbing trends?