“You Are Never Too Young to Start Heart-Healthy Living”

By Cate & Kate

We have talked about a couple of people who have been affected by heart complications in the recent past. These ladies in their 40s and early 50s were getting on with their normal lives. One died of a sudden heart attack and one is alive because the constant discomfort she felt caused her to search for answers, which resulted in medical intervention that saved her life. It is important to note that a heart attack can happen to even younger people. For example, statistics reported in an article published last year (September 2019) indicated a rise in heart attacks in people in their 40s, 30s and even 20s. One factor that can be a lifesaver is knowing the symptoms of a heart attack and these can be different for men and women.

Heart attack symptoms: Men vs. women

Squeezing chest pressure or pain
Jaw, neck or back pain
Nausea or vomiting
Shortness of breath

Chest pain, but not always
Pain or pressure in the lower chest or upper abdomen
Jaw, neck or upper back pain
Nausea or vomiting
Shortness of breath
Extreme fatigue

As one scientist puts it, “preparation for a heart attack comes down to actively trying to prevent the heart attack by eliminating as many risk factors as possible.” This is in agreement with the advice from the American Heart Association encouraging us to do whatever we can to lower our risk of a heart attack – “because for many people, their first heart attack is disabling or even fatal.”

A heart attack happens when blood flow that supplies the heart with oxygen and nutrients is cut off, leading to death of the heart muscle. Usually the underlying culprit is atherosclerosis, a process by which plaque deposits in arteries causing them to narrow or causing a complete blockage as a result of plaque presence. This process of atherosclerosis takes place slowly, usually starting in childhood and showing no symptoms until a heart attack occurs. Granted, there are factors beyond one’s control that increase one’s chance of getting a heart attack, which include age, gender and heredity. Fortunately, there are several factors that we can control. These include, cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, stress, exercise, diet and avoiding smocking or exposure to tobacco smoke.

American Heart Association advises that it is beneficial for a person to understand their risks for heart attack and then embark on heart attack prevention – this prevention should start early in life. We wrote Atherosclerosis Attack to provide a fun way for middle schoolers to learn about this important topic. The atherosclerosis story is told through the eyes of children and seeks to help other children understand why they need to start at a young age to work towards lowering their risk of a heart attack.

This book is also beneficial to the parents and care takers who want to help their loved young ones be proactive about preventing a heart attack. The reasons behind the need to start at a young age are presented in a story that children can identify with and would provide them with a clearer understanding of why they need to make certain dietary and lifestyle choices. To assist with learning about and executing healthy living, the book provides some great resources in the last chapter to help engage schools, students and parents. In addition to those resources, here we provide a few more tips and links to keep the family in an active role regarding prevention of chronic diseases.

Getting kids interested in healthy living: Using Pinterest, YouTube and other social media platforms, it is easy for parents to design an experiment that kids can do to actively engage in the science of healthy living.

How much sugar is in what you eat and drink? A food label lists the amount of sugar in a substance, but often 22 g or 12 g is not visualized well with kids or adults. Hence in this visual experiment, kids can measure the amount of sugar into baggies and see firsthand the amount of sugar in their favorite soda, juice or fruit.

Nimali Fernando, MD: In response to the growing rates of childhood obesity, pediatrician Nimali Fernando MD, MPH started the website https://doctoryum.org/ in 2011 to teach her patients and their families about the benefits of healthy eating. What started out as a recipe and parenting site, grew to a bigger project of teaching a healthy lifestyle to the greater community. You can check her website for webinars, recipes and other fun items that emphasize cooking as a whole family affair.

PBS Website: This website contains creative games that enable young kids to engage in healthy living and learn about the human body. It offers exciting games, printables, recipes and videos.  And best of all, it is free! The following links will show you examples of what you can find on the PBS website. https://pbskids.org/games/healthy-habits/ and https://pbskids.org/lunchlab/

CDC Website: This website contains a downloadable book with fun coloring pages, games and stickers that demonstrate healthy eating and regular activity. https://www.cdc.gov/family/kidheroes/index.htm

If you don’t already have a copy of Atherosclerosis Attack for your children or those in your care, we encourage you to get one from Amazon  or Barnes and Nobles and explore how you can help your children learn to be become a force against the unwelcome intruder of their bodies.

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