A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has identified five childhood risk factors that predict a kid’s risk of heart attack or stroke later in adulthood.
The study found that five factors — body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and youth smoking in early childhood — are linked to cardiovascular events starting at age 40.
The researchers tracked nearly 40,000 participants from Australia, Finland, and the U.S. for an average of 35 years. They found that the presence of just one of the five risk factors during the ages of 3 to 19 increased the risk of future heart attacks and strokes.
The major takeaway for parents is that early intervention to ensure the health of kids is one of the best ways to make sure they don’t have a stroke or heart attack later in life.
Lead study author Terence Dwyer said as much: “Despite the effect medical and surgical care has had on treating heart disease, the major impact will depend on effective preventive strategies. This study confirms that prevention should begin in childhood,” according to a press release.
Heart disease kills more people in the United States than any other cause. It’s expected to become even more of a killer due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic because of how COVID can cause future heart issues. Stroke, on the other hand, is the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. Given the fact that U.S. experts expect to see a “tidal wave” of heart problems in the years following the pandemic, ensuring that you’re keeping your kids healthy in every way you can control will be key to keeping them healthier later on in life when it comes to their hearts.
“While interventions in adulthood like improving diet, quitting smoking, being more active, and taking appropriate medications to reduce risk factors are helpful…there is much more that can be done during childhood…to reduce lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease,” Professor Dwyer said.
So keep your kids moving and their diets balanced, and keep them away from smoking. It’ll pay dividends later.