Health Topics Information

Heart disease begins in childhood

Heart disease begins in childhood

When most of us think about heart disease, we think of it as something we don’t have to worry about until later in life. But the truth is, the development of coronary artery disease starts in early childhood. The accumulation of plaque is a lifelong process so it’s important to practice healthy habits at a young age and to pass these along to your children.

Heart disease is the number one killer of all Americans. But it doesn’t have to be. “Heart disease is largely a preventable disease that is associated with many risk factors that are modifiable,” says CHI St. Alexius Health Cardiologist Peerawut Deeprasertkul, MD. “Armed with the right tools, you can help prevent heart disease from playing a major role in your life and that of your children.”

Practicing these healthy habits and being a positive role model for your children will help your children develop healthy habits that will carry on into adulthood and reduce their risk later in life.

  • Stay current on your child’s physical and sports physicals. Physicals allow your doctor to monitor a child’s growth and development. As your child gets older, health promotion and prevention also become more important. Your pediatrician will discuss the importance of adequate exercise, sleep and nutrition. If your child plays sports, a sports physical is important as it will dig deeper into your child’s personal health and family history for things that might predispose them to things like heart problems.
  • Practice healthy eating habits at home. Limit fast food and plan meals that include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, and foods low in trans fat.
  • Practice regular exercise. Be a good role model for your children and exercise regularly. They will likely model your behavior. Make exercising a part of things you do together as a family like hiking, going for walks, swimming and bicycle rides. Regular exercise will help lower blood pressure, decrease blood sugars, improve cholesterol and help maintain a healthy weight.
  • Promote healthy cholesterol levels. A healthy diet low in fat and high in fruits, vegetables and fiber as well as regular exercise can help you and your children maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
  • Control blood pressure. If you eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly and maintain an appropriate weight, you will also be promoting healthy blood pressure levels.
  • Teach your children about smoking. Tobacco use is started and established primarily during adolescence. Talk to your children early on about the health dangers of smoking. Smoking doubles your risk for having a heart attack and raises your heart rate and blood pressure, which puts additional stress on the heart.
  • Prevent diabetes. Diabetes greatly increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Type 2 diabetes occurs more commonly in adults. However, type 2 diabetes in children is on the rise, fueled by the obesity epidemic. To help prevent type 2 diabetes in children, encourage your child to eat healthy foods, get plenty of physical activity and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Help your child keep a healthy weight. Carrying excess weight strains your heart, raises your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels and increases your risk for diabetes.

“It’s all about prevention and teaching healthy habits in your children at a young age,” said Dr. Deeprasertkul. “If you practice healthy lifestyle habits, your child will be more likely to model these positive habits into adulthood.”


Peerawut Deeprasertkul, MD   
CardiologyCHI St. Alexius Health Williston