Yes, we worry about our children’s safety while they play outside. Did they do all their homework? Did they finish dinner? The bottom line is that being a parent is tough work. I know because over the years, my wife and I have fretted plenty over our two sons. Now, I want you to ask yourself something more serious. Do you ever think of how they are aging on the inside? Are our children growing plaque in their arteries?
Several scientific articles in recent yearshave startled mein recent years. The first was a study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicineshowing that today’s children are projected to have a shorter lifespan than my own generation and even my parent’s generation. The second article from a research group in Los Angeles showed that when arterial plaque was measured in obese adolescents, the average child had an arterial plaque score of someone in their mid-40s. Several other studies have showed similar findings. This means that overweight children had mostly doubled their arterial plaque age, some long before they were old enough to vote.
So as a concerned parent, physician, and nutritionist, I conducted my own study to see if I got the same results. I used an ultrasound device (carotid IMT testing as I do on most adults in my clinic) to measure the arterial plaque score of adolescent children (ages 15-21) I have seen over time. Of the children seen in my clinic who were obese by height and weight criteria, the average child had the arterial plaque of a 42 year old adult. This means these children have aged their arteries at more than twice the normal rate.To me, this shows that unhealthy aspects of our culture are potentially killing our children.
Because it’sunrealistic for all parents to have this type of artery ultrasound testing, in our clinic we have identified lifestyle factors that predict arterial plaque age and arterial plaque growth. So how can you predictif your children are plaque free, or plaque producing? Your answersto the following four questionswill give you a good idea of how they’re faring:
Our clinical experience shows that if your childrenare active, get enough fiber (including their quota of vegetables and fruits), and are at an appropriate weight, their arterial plaque score should be totally normal. If not, ensure they receive the activity, fiber, and produce they need.If they are overweight, be sure to cut out all the sugar in their diet(sugar, not fat, is the number one cause for heart disease—look for more cutting-edge info on sugar from me next week).Not only will making these changeshelp to ensure a healthy heart for you and your children, but theywill likely help to correct any weight issuesas well.
As I’m always looking for tools to help you, I recently came across an excellent children’s book written by physician colleague Edwin Lee MD and Jim Huth. Your Amazing Heart (IHM Publishing) puts the secrets of how to live an active, healthy life into children’s terms. I highly recommend it for your children.
Lastly, please check out the recipes in The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up. The recipes are created for families—they are delicious, easy-to-prepare with ingredients you can find in your local grocery store, and are designed with nutrients that will nourish your heart and soul.
I wish you and your family the very best of health!
Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, FAAFP
For more information and a special report from Dr. Masley, click here.