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When we hear the words high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or heart disease, we often imagine older adults, not children! But with today’s technology, we have the power to spot the early signs of heart disease before any symptoms manifest, and the results are shocking.
By measuring cholesterol in healthy children, and examining the arteries of kids and teens that have passed away, we have learned that heart disease start young- very young. In one study, 70% of overweight children had at least one risk factor for heart disease, and 39% had two or more factors.
Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and insulin resistance. The more risk factors one has, the greater the chances of developing heart disease that damages the cardiovascular system. As overweight and obesity increased, the proportion of children with at least two risk factors increased from 5% to 59%. And excess weight starts early, with more than one-third of children and adolescents now overweight or obese.
We know that arterial walls begin to develop fatty deposits that build up over time. This process begins in childhood, promoted by a Western diet of highly processed foods, damaging fats, too much sugar, and salt. In autopsies performed on young males (mostly victims of trauma) with an average age of 26, atherosclerosis was observed in 78 percent of the men. In another study, scientists autopsied 2,876 young accident victims (ages 15-34) and found that an alarming 60 percent of subjects in the youngest group (ages 15-19) had atherosclerosis.
In another study, scientists autopsied 2,876 young accident victims (ages 15-34) and found that an alarming 60 percent of subjects in the youngest group (ages 15-19) had atherosclerosis.
So why talk about heart disease in an article about cancer prevention in kids? It’s because you can’t see cancer. You can’t measure it like heart disease in youth.
Although we now understand how crucial it is to live a healthy lifestyle and provide good childhood nutrition in order to prevent heart disease, many parents don’t know that cancer prevention also starts in kids! Lifetime habits start early, and how and what your family eats has a strong influence. You certainly don’t think of preventing pancreatic, endometrial, colorectal, kidney, postmenopausal breast, or gallbladder cancer starting with kids. Yet, we know overweight and obesity is responsible for over 120,000 cases of cancer in the United States each year.
Today, nearly 1 in 2 Americans develop cancer at some point in their lives. WOW! The best news is we’re not powerless. Research shows 1 in 3 cancers is preventable through diet and lifestyle, and that’s not accounting for smoking! A parent’s love doesn’t stop when a child turns 18, so why not turn on their cancer protection now, and shield them early in life.
You can’t change your genes, but you can turn your shield on! Diet and lifestyle count –here’s what you can do with your family. Pick or Create 1 Goal:
Make a commitment today to choose a goal that says NO to Cancer and Yes to Cancer Prevention. Don’t let your good intention disappear. Write it down, post on the fridge, schedule in your calendar, and make it happen! Check out the Healthy Kids Today, Prevent Cancer Tomorrow Campaign. There are 5 toolkits, each with a different food-related health theme that can work for your family. Download them today!