Preventable heart disease is increasing among children. Parents can start now by making lifestyle changes for the whole family, according to a University of Louisville Physicians pediatric cardiologist.
“The increase in preventable heart disease is largely believed to be due to a rise in childhood obesity,” said Lucinda T. Wright, M.D., pediatric cardiologist with UofL Physicians – Pediatric Cardiology and on staff at Norton Children’s Hospital.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in five children ages 6 to 19 is obese.
Obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes beginning in childhood are risk factors for early heart disease.
Start early to reduce heart disease risk
Parents can help reduce their child’s risk by teaching healthy lifestyle habits early.
“Lifestyle behaviors associated with heart disease definitely start during childhood,” Dr. Wright said. “Habits such as eating a well-balanced and healthy diet, maintaining an active lifestyle with regular aerobic exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and not using tobacco should be taught at a very young age.”
Dr. Wright emphasized that parents are their child’s first role models.
Free Healthy Living Workshops
This is a free series and is open to families with children ages 13 to 18.
“Children learn what they see at home, and parents should model the healthy lifestyle they want for their children,” she said. “Plan physical activities together, spend time outside together, let them see you exercising and include them in the activities you enjoy. Plan healthy meals together, grocery shop together and cook together to start good eating habits that will last into adulthood.”
Here’s some help to make the change
Many families struggle with making changes to promote a healthy family lifestyle.
“Change can be overwhelming, especially if it is a change outside of your normal comfort zone,” said Nikki Boyd, coordinator with Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness. “We’ve developed a workshop series that assists parents and their teens in beginning their journey and provides them with resources to help along the way.”
Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness and YMCA of Greater Louisville are offering Healthy Living Workshops. The six-week series was designed to support families with teens as they transition to a healthy family lifestyle.
The workshops focus on:
- Goal setting for healthy habits
- Healthy meal planning and prep
- Fun ways to stay active, including free passes to the YMCA
- Tools to reduce stress