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Forming heart-healthy habits in kids

Dr. Jennifer Rubin

If you have a child or grandchild with a family history of heart disease, it’s wise to encourage heart-healthy behaviors early on.

A study on children whose parents developed heart disease indicated that the children tended to be overweight as they matured, and developed other risk factors. By age 26, they also had high cholesterol, blood sugar and insulin levels.

“A primary way to promote good heart health is by serving an abundance of fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods — without added saturated fat or sugar,” said Dr. Jennifer Rubin, internal medicine/pediatric physician with Western Connecticut Medical Group-Ridgefield Primary Care.

“Beyond the dinner table, encourage your children and grandchildren to be active. Keep it fun, indoors or out, by turning on the radio and dancing, and having a supply of outdoor toys and sports equipment.

“Encourage lifelong activities such as walking, biking, running, or in-line skating,” added Dr. Rubin.

“We know that heart disease begins to form in childhood, even though symptoms don’t appear until mid-adulthood,” said Dr. Rubin.

Children with a family history of high cholesterol (greater than 200 mg/dl) or heart disease (heart attack or angina before age 55) are themselves at greater risk of early-onset heart disease.

“It’s easier to establish healthy habits in childhood than to change unhealthy ones later in life,” she said. “Help the children in your family understand the value of good heart health by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and treating risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol when they are identified.”

For more information, call 800-482-1387.

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