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The American Academy of Pediatrics has urged pediatricians to “improve the health and well-being of children and families by reducing childhood obesity and promoting healthy active living.”

Despite their efforts, we continue to face an obesity epidemic.

Overweight and obese children are very likely to become obese adults with higher risk of coronary artery heart disease than their normal weight peers. In fact, coronary artery disease starts during childhood.

Some studies suggest that as a result today’s children will have shorter life spans than their parents, which would mark the first generation where children, on average, did not outlive parents.

There are five key steps to keep a child or adolescent’s heart healthy:

• Every child needs 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

Doctors should begin to check children’s blood pressure at every well visit as soon as the child is old enough to sit quietly during the measurement.

• Doctors recommend screening for high blood cholesterol levels between the ages of 9 and 11 years old.

• Every parent should know their child’s Body Mass Index (commonly referred to a BMI) and BMI percentile. Overweight and obesity should be treated as soon as it is recognized.

• The best way to prevent your children from smoking is to stop smoking yourself.

These five measures should be discussed with your child’s primary care physician.

Programs like Northwell Health – Southside Hospital’s B.E.A.T. screening and education program can help families and their adolescent children learn the importance of a healthy heart.

Good habits that begin early in life carry into adulthood.

Free teen health screening details:

Free teen health screening and education program at Southside Hospital

About the author:

Dr. Barry Goldberg is the chief of pediatric cardiology of Northwell health system.