Cardiovascular Prevention in Childhood

Cardiovascular disease prevention should begin in childhood

Almost everyone with a typical American lifestyle develops some degree of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease over time. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and accounted for 20.5% of all deaths in 2020. Stroke was the 4th most frequent cause of death after heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19 in 2020 and the cause of 4.7% of deaths.

Heart and blood vessel disease include numerous problems, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis––a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can block the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

But a healthy lifestyle can postpone cardiovascular illnesses and death by decades or completely prevent them. It is important to develop healthy lifestyle habits in childhood and avoid a lifetime of eating an unhealthy diet with large amounts of added sugar, trans and saturated fat, and highly processed foods, control blood pressure, maintain a high level of physical activity, and avoid overweight and obesity.

CVD is largely preventable by putting into place the Building Blocks of Health
by following the Lifestyle Checklist that addresses diet and lifestyle factors that
account for over 90% of the risk of a heart attack:

• Smoking and vaping: Don’t start or quit if you are a smoker.
• Blood cholesterol: Know your LDL-C and control LDL-C through optimal
nutrition and the use of statins and other drugs if needed. Aim for 70 mg/dl or lower.
• Hypertension: Know your blood pressure, avoid hypertension by limiting
dietary sodium to 2,300 mg/day, and use of antihypertensive medicines if
needed—lower is better. Aim for 120/80 mm Hg or at least below 140/90
mm Hg.
• Diabetes: Limit dietary sugar and avoid overweight and obesity.
• Overweight and obesity: Maintain a normal weight.
• Diet: Eat a whole food plant-based Mediterranean or ultra-low fat Ornish style diet.
• Physical activity: Meet the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate
intensity physical activity; in general, the more, the better.
• Alcohol consumption: Avoid entirely or at least have no more than one drink
a day for both women and men.
• Psychosocial factors: Manage stress.

This report presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. Catalyst for Children is not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures, and suggestions that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader's own physician or other medical professional based on the reader's own individual conditions, symptoms, or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise, or other assistance or advice, the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. Catalyst for Children specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage, or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this report or participating in any programs described in this report.

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