We often associate cardiovascular disease – which include heart disease and stroke – with older men. However, even children and teens can succumb to these serious health problems. 

To minimise their risks of heart disease, here’s a quick guide to what you need to know.

How to keep your kids heart attack-free
Children and teens are at risk of cardiovascular disease too. Here’s what you need to know. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

 

How many children and youths are affected by cardiovascular disease?
There are no statistics in Singapore, but a report from the World Heart Federation states that physical inactivity leading to heart disease and diabetes causes 3.2 million deaths a year among children and youths all over the world.

Why children and youths are affected
It’s due to an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, says Associate Professor Terrence Chua, chairman of the Singapore Heart Foundation. Prof Chua emphasises that cardiovascular disease does not discriminate against age or gender, and everyone must be aware of the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle. “This is especially important in this day and age, where both fast food and transport are easily accessible,” he adds.

How can you protect your kids from heart disease?
Make sure they eat properly, stay physically active, and go for regular health screenings. Prof Chua adds: “Eat until you’re only 80 per cent full. Have a diet that is high in vegetables and fruit, and low in salt and saturated fat. Avoid fast food, foods high in salt and saturated fats, and snacks with trans fats.” Also encourage your kids to exercise, as it can help prevent obesity, a risk factor in cardiovascular disease.

Can you tell if your kid is at risk of heart disease?
“In kids and teenagers, warning symptoms include shortness of breath or fainting during exercise,” explains Prof Chua. “And teenagers who don’t exercise, are overweight, or have an unhealthy diet, are developing habits that will affect their future likelihood of heart disease.”