Heart health: Lifestyle changes for kids to prevent heart attacks later in life

By, New Delhi
Dec 10, 2022 09:32 PM IST

Is your child eating too much junk food and glued to the screen? It's time to make some lifestyle changes for the sake of their hearts.

Covid-19 has left a long-lasting impact on our heart health and a series of recent sudden cardiac arrests prove that we aren't doing enough for one of our most crucial organs that works round the clock to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all parts of the body. Recently, a bride in her early twenties died due to sudden cardiac arrest during her wedding ceremony in Lucknow while a 16-year-old boy died while playing cricket. Bus drivers, people dancing at the wedding, at concerts and pujas succumbing to cardiac arrest is concerning and requires urgent action and lifestyle changes. Heart attacks and cardiac ailments are becoming not just common in young adults apart from elderly, but also threaten to impact teenagers and children. (Also read: Is Covid-19 vaccine causing increase in heart attack cases? Here’s what cardiologists say)

While earlier kids were more physically active, now they are fast becoming sedentary due to increased interest in smart phones, video games and other gadgets. (Pexels)
While earlier kids were more physically active, now they are fast becoming sedentary due to increased interest in smart phones, video games and other gadgets. (Pexels)

While earlier kids were more physically active, now they are fast becoming sedentary due to increased interest in smart phones, video games and other gadgets. They are also eating more junk food than ever before. Stress and competition start affecting kids early on these days due to peer and parental pressure. All these risk factors are likely to impact their heart health later in life. If you too are not thinking twice before letting your child munch on that burger and French Fries and sip on colas, it is high time to serve them healthy alternatives of their favourite unhealthy food.

"According to the American Heart Association (AHA) certain factors either genetic or environmental play important roles in a person’s chances of developing heart disease. Some of these risk factors can be modified or treated, and some cannot. When these risk factors do develop at an early age, they are likely to progress over time, putting individual at high-risk for heart attacks in adulthood. The good news is that several studies have now demonstrated that preventing or controlling these risk factors early in life result in dramatic reduction in cardiovascular disease in adulthood. We can implement lifestyle and behavioural changes in our children by identifying and preventing these risk factors early," says Dr. Sanah Merchant Soomar, Consultant Pediatric Cardiologist, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital.

Dr Soomar discusses lifestyle factors that puts your teen at risk of heart attack.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure(Pixabay)
High blood pressure(Pixabay)

Blood pressure must be evaluated even in children during routine paediatrician visits. This condition is uncommon in children but when present is a serious risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Children with a strong family history of heart disease and high blood pressure need to be monitored more closely. In most cases, lifestyle changes will help prevent children from developing high blood pressure.

Lifestyle changes for high blood pressure

• Help your child maintain a healthy body weight. Overweight children usually have higher blood pressures.

• Increase their physical activity.

• Limit the daily salt intake.

• Smoking elevates blood pressure. Warn teens about the dangers of cigarette smoking and substance abuse. The nicotine in cigarettes causes the blood vessels to narrow, making it even harder for blood to flow through the vessels.

High cholesterol

High cholesterol(Shutterstock)
High cholesterol(Shutterstock)

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance called lipid that is found in all body cells. Fewer than 15% of children have high cholesterol levels, but when present this can cause fatty plaque build-up in blood vessels which begins in childhood and progresses into adulthood. This disease process is called atherosclerosis. In time, atherosclerosis leads to heart disease, which is the single biggest cause of adult death in India over the last 2 decades. This condition is often genetic and runs in families.

Lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol

• Children and teens should exercise daily.

• Eat foods low in cholesterol and fat and consume more whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Healthy eating habits should be initiated in young children, avoiding deep fried foods. Avoid excessive carbohydrates and sugars (such as rice, wheat, bread and juices) as they also get stored in the body as fats. A diet high in protein and low carbohydrates and saturated fats is best.

• Know the dangers of cigarette smoking.

• Manage weight to avoid the risks associated with obesity.

• Control diabetes, high blood pressure, or other conditions that contribute to heart disease.


Smoking regularly can greatly raise your risk of having a stroke. (Unsplash)
Smoking regularly can greatly raise your risk of having a stroke. (Unsplash)

Almost 1 crore people die each year from heart diseases caused by smoking. Among young people who would otherwise have a very low risk of heart disease, cigarette smoking may cause as many as 75 percent of the cases of heart disease.



A child whose body mass index (BMI) is above the 95th percentile is considered overweight. This is a major risk factor for heart disease. This can also result in development of type 2 diabetes in teenagers. Children become overweight simply because they are eating more calories than they are burning during exercise and daily life.

Physical inactivity

The American Heart Association advises that all children 5 years and older must get at least 60 minutes of exercise every day. This should include a mix of moderate- and high-intensity activities.

In summary, modifying risk factors in early childhood and introducing good behaviours especially healthy eating habits and daily exercise will lead to reduced heart disease later in life.

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