No Matter Your Age

being overweight is hard on your body. As obesity rates rise in children, doctors are seeing what used to be “adult diseases” cropping up in children. While most parents expect to deal with high cholesterol in their aging parents, instead many are working on lowering their children’s cholesterol too – not to mention their own. Teens and young adults can take matters into their own hands, focusing on a few lifestyle changes now that can brighten their future tomorrow.

Divert Your Children from Heart Disease Road
PARENTS: Use your  purse power

The shocker for many parents is that high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are now health risks for their children, not simply adult health problems. And those health risks can lead to changes in heart and artery structure, heart disease and stroke at an early age.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), childhood obesity rates have risen dramatically in the last 30 years. This rise goes hand-in-hand with an increase in our children’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels and onset of type 2 diabetes.

Check, please

If your family has a strong history of heart disease, or if you or your child’s other parent has high cholesterol, ask your pediatrician to use a simple blood test to check your child’s cholesterol levels. Even if your family history doesn’t indicate a lurking problem, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all children be screened for cholesterol levels once between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between 17 and 21 years old.

In general, obesity is caused by eating more calories than are burned off during exercise and activities of daily life. Genetics, aging, gender, lifestyle, and illness can also cause obesity in some cases.

Obesity is considered dangerous in children because research indicates that the fat cells we gain as children stay with us into adulthood. Obese children may have five times as many fat cells than children of normal weight. The cruel fact is that while dieting as adults, these once-obese children will be able to only decrease the size of their fat cells, but not the actual number of fat cells. That means a constant struggle with dieting and weight. And in fact, obese children are more likely to be obese adults.
Take immediate action

  • You can turn the tide for your children starting right now with these lifestyle changes:
  • Control the amount of food they eat so they eat fewer calories.
  • Do not use food as a reward for good behavior or good grades.
  • Limit snacking and control the snack foods they do eat.
  • Know what your child eats at school.
  • Eat meals as a family. This will not only help you understand what and how much your children are eating, it allows you to model healthy eating behavior.
  • Increase their physical activity by joining in fun exercise activities that the whole family can do together.
  • Limit TV time and computer play time.
  • Be sure all children age 5 and older get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
              -Don’t rely on gym class and recess; see that your children have a
               good mix of moderate- and high-intensity activities every day.
              -Remember, active children usually grow up to become active adults

Set the table
You can help your children grow up to enjoy healthy, lower-fat-and-cholesterol foods in just a few easy ways:
  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables on hand all the time – not high-fat chips.
  • Serve whole-grain bread and cereals.
  • Serve low-fat milk and low-fat yogurt, and use lower fat cheeses.
  • Include a starchy food like whole grain pasta, rice, baked potatoes and barley in your meals.
  • Exchange high-fat/high-cal extras like butter, mar¬garine, sour cream, and gravy for herbed cottage cheese, grated parmesan cheese, and low-fat/non-fat yogurt.
  • Serve more heart-healthy fish, lean meats (chicken, turkey, lean beef and pork cuts) and trim away any visible fat and poultry skin.
  • Use margarine and vegetable oils (canola, corn, olive, sun¬flower, and soybean oils) instead of butter and lard.
  • Make dessert a frozen fruit bar, angel food cake, or low-fat frozen yo¬gurt instead of rich, creamy cakes, pies and ice creams.
  • Use nonstick vegetable sprays when you cook, not added fat
  • Try fat-free cooking techniques like baking, broiling, poaching, grilling, or steaming when preparing meat, fish, and poultry. Don’t add butter or margarine on vegetables.
  • Switch from creamy soups to vegetable-based/broth-based soups. When making creamy soups, use low-fat milk.

You hold the keys

You can help set a heart-healthy course for your children by aiming them in the right direction with diet, exercise and information. Helping them make smart lifestyle choices is a gift greater than almost anything else you can give them.

You’ll Need Shades

You’ve heard this before: Your future is in your hands. Now, this isn’t an article about being a math whiz or making the varsity team for a college scholarship. It’s about doing what you can now to lower your risk of heart disease as an adult.

Know the Score

A recent study from the CDC found that 20% of teenagers in the U.S. had elevated levels of cholesterol. That means they had higher than recommended LDL or triglycerides, and low levels of HDL. These weren’t all overweight teens: Even among those with normal body weight, more than 14% had unhealthy cholesterol levels. A high ratio of bad LDL to good HDL can lead to heart disease.

Your doctor should check your cholesterol when you’re between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between 17 and 21 years old. Ask about your numbers and be sure you’re managing your levels in a healthy way. For teens in general, HDL (good) cholesterol should be higher than 40 mg/dL. Triglyceride levels should be below 130 mg/dL

Because it’s hard to measure the fat in foods in terms of teaspoons, think of it in percentages. The labels on foods will help with that. Healthy teenage girls should eat about 1,800 calories a day – with 25% of those calories coming from healthy fats. Teenage boys with a daily calorie intake of about 2,200 should also consume 25% of the calories as fat.

Since labels don’t always show the percentage of fat in a food, you can do the math for yourself. Divide the number of calories from fat by the number of total calories in the food, and multiply by 100

A Heavy Subject
Being overweight as a young person is considered dangerous because it sets a pattern for your body. The number of fat cells we gain as children stay with us into adulthood. So even if you lose weight as an adult, you’ll only be decreasing the size of your fat cells, not reducing the number of fat cells you have. And that means a lifelong struggle with your weight and your health

But let’s get back to your heart. Being overweight and/or having high cholesterol puts a strain on your heart. It has to work harder to pump more blood through your arteries and veins and is less efficient as it does. So it’s up to you to turn the pattern around and improve your chances of a healthier adulthood. Here’s how:
  • Get enough exercise. Shoot for no less than 30 minutes EVERY DAY of moderate to vigorous workouts. In fact, 60 minutes is ideal.
  • Increase the amount of natural fiber in your diet by eating more whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Lower the amount of fat you eat to 30% of your calories. You can do this by eating low-fat dairy and lean proteins like chicken and turkey (without skin), fish, plus lean cuts of beef and pork. Also switch from butter to trans-fat-free margarine.
  • Avoid junk food, sugary food, fried foods, and processed foods like bacon, hot dogs and sausages.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol level and encourages high blood pressure, another risk factor in heart disease. And it’s a nasty, expensive habit with all sorts of other health downsides.
  • Reduce or eliminate your intake of sugars and refined grains. These foods increase the amount of insulin your liver makes, which contributes to high cholesterol.
  • Drink more water and low-fat milk; avoid sugary soft drinks and juices.

A Promising Future
A smart diet, an active daily life, and the smarts to learn more about your health will set you up to become a winner in the future. And your heart will thank you every day.


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