Heart Disease: Is Your Family at Risk?

Main Atrium Balloons Malone July 2015 African American toddler young girl Zayvia Abdoulaye-Brown

It could affect you, your parent, your child or your grandchildren. One in three deaths in the United States can be attributed to cardiovascular disease or problems with the heart’s arteries, muscle or other functions according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While this statistic is alarming for everyone, the stakes are even higher for African-Americans.

Heart disease in adults is commonly linked to risk factors including high blood pressure and obesity, which disproportionally affect African-Americans living in Washington, D.C. The prevalence of high blood pressure among African-American adults is two times higher than among their white peers according to reports from the District of Columbia Department of Health. When it comes to obesity, less than one in ten white District residents are obese, while the condition affects one in three African-American residents.

While many kids’ heart issues are related to congenital defects, most recently increasing obesity among children and teens has increased their risk for cardiac problems. So it’s important to start good habits now in order to avoid early onset of high blood pressure and obesity. As grandparents, parents and guardians, you have the chance to help your children avoid heart issues throughout their lives by making healthy choices now.

Here are some heart healthy tips to implement today:

Limit Screen Time – We know that too much time sitting isn’t good for kids. Did you know that children ages 8-10 spend approximately six hours a day in front of a screen using entertainment media? As a parent or a grandparent, limit the time your child or grandchild spends on the phone, a laptop, the TV or a computer. Also, be sure they stop watching before bed.

Choose Healthier Drinks and Snacks – With long work hours and lots of other plans, finding time to make a healthy meal plan can be hard. To get started, focus on adding more dark green, orange and red vegetables to your plate. Vegetables like sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens and peppers provide essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients and don’t contain excess calories and unhealthy fats. Additionally, cut down on sugary drinks and try adding a splash of lemon or fruit slices to water instead.

Get Moving as a Family – Children model the behaviors of their family members. With warmer temperatures on the way, make time to get outside with your kids and grandkids. Plan an activity that the whole family will enjoy. Kids should spend 60 minutes or more each day doing physical activity.

Schedule Routine Visits to Your Pediatrician – Just like it’s important for adults to have their cholesterol checked, children need to maintain routine visits to their pediatricians. These visits allow physicians to ask questions and monitor changes in health over time. This is especially important to stop obesity before it becomes a problem. Visit ChildrensNational.org to learn more about our primary care practices.

If your pediatrician recommends that your child should see a specialist, it’s important to choose a cardiologist who focuses on children’s heart health, like the doctors at Children’s National Heart Institute. In his forthcoming book, “Healing Children: A Surgeon’s Stories from the Frontiers of Pediatric Medicine,” Kurt Newman, MD, president and Chief Executive Officer of Children’s National, shares more tips and lessons to help parents find the right doctors and the best care for their kids. His guiding principle is that the more families use experts and facilities that specialize in pediatric care, the better their child’s experience and outcome will be.

As the only exclusive provider of health care for kids in the District, Children’s National is dedicated to helping children grow up stronger. This includes caring for nearly 14,000 D.C. kids each month and advocating that pediatric medicine remains a mainstay in our nation’s health care system.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, District of Columbia Department of Health