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Link between obesity, heart disease in children

Pediatrician explains ways parents can help their kids reduce the risk

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Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States. For many people, it starts developing in childhood. Dr. Sara Lappe, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children's, says obesity is one of the critical risk factors for heart disease in children because it can lead to others.

"Of the adolescents that are overweight or obese, up to 60% have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. So, that includes diabetes, pre-diabetes, hypertension, and cholesterol problems," she explained.

Screening for cardiovascular disease risk factors in overweight and obese children can help. In fact, one study found that by identifying cardiovascular disease risk factors in children may even predict how much their parents' are at risk for developing the disease.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend routine cholesterol screening of children between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between 17 and 21.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task force recommends regular blood pressure screenings for children with symptoms of high blood pressure or an underlying health problem that could cause hypertension- like obesity.

Lappe says it's important to identify children who may be at risk for developing heart disease early, not to put them on medication, but to educate them and their parents about lifestyle changes that can reduce their risk.

"So, it all goes back to trying to have a healthy lifestyle to prevent heart problems later in life, so it's trying to get to a healthy weight now, being active, and eating well," Lappe said.

Take It To Heart Challenge

News4Jax, together with Baker-Gilmour Cardiovascular Institute and Walgreens, have put together the Take it to Heart Four Step Challenge, to help you and your family get heart healthy. On the fourth of every month, we take a moment to encourage you to sign up.

There are four steps to the challenge:

  • Learn the symptoms
  • Know your risk factors
  • Stop smoking
  • Exercise

  • To sign up for the challenge, go to www.takeittoheartnow.org.