World Heart Day children cardiovascular health

World Heart Day: Guiding children towards better cardiovascular health

September 29, 2020
– Shivani Chaturvedi

Several risk factors that may lead to heart disease could be controlled in the early years of our life. Yes, the healthy habits set up in childhood could be the best bet for lowering the risk of heart related ailments in adulthood.

Let us understand a bit more about cardiovascular health in childhood from Dr Viveka Kumar, Principal Director & Chief- Cath labs (Max Healthcare), Cardiac Sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi, and Dr Srinivasa Prasad B V, consultant, Interventional Cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Bangalore. 


What are the concerning health trends among children that may lead to heart related ailments later on in life?

Dr Viveka Kumar

Dr Viveka Kumar

Dr Viveka: Heart health should be taken care of from childhood. There are two different types of heart diseases. One is congenital heart disease which is the most common type of birth defect and the other is acquired heart disease which is lifestyle related. Congenital heart disease is the one where because of the genetic abnormality there might be hole in the heart or there might be abnormal connection of the heart and arteries. These are the conditions that develop if the mother is not well nourished or other factors. In addition, consumption of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy may lead to congenital heart disease.

However, acquired heart disease one develops due to lack of physical exercise and obesity. Nowadays obesity related to high blood pressure is very common amongst children and that could eventually lead to stress on the heart resulting in heart diseases or even heart attack at a tender age.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in India are still high. If we look at congenital heart disease, it is very common especially in cases where age is not on parents’ side when they conceive. A child born to older parents may develop congenital heart disease if the parents have heart disease. Taking a look at the incidence of congenital heart disease in India, it is around 7 to 8 per 1000 births which is more than the global average that is 2 or 3 per 1000 births. In acquired heart disease also India is high because of unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle of children which leads to childhood obesity, resulting into high blood pressure which may eventually translate into heart problems. When we look at the world data we have the highest number of youngsters having heart attacks because of the lifestyle disorder in children.

Dr Srinivasa Prasad B V

Dr Srinivasa Prasad B V

Dr Srinivasa: Though we understand the importance of active lifestyle and healthy eating habits, we don’t teach this to our children. The more sedentary lives children now lead is also creating huge problems.  Childhood obesity has been on a rise in India, and also in other countries. Previously childhood obesity was less than 3 to 2 percent but in the past decade it has reached almost 20 percent in most of the countries. This is not a good trend. These children might develop heart related ailments very shortly.

What are the challenges to promoting cardiovascular health in children?

 Dr Viveka: Everything boils down to education and awareness of lifestyle disease related risk factors. We need to focus on creating more and more awareness. Healthy eating habits in the early years can set up healthy eating habits for life. In our country the problem is that once somebody suffers a heart problem or one cardiac event then they start changing their lifestyle and that might be too late as enough damage would already have been done. Also, regular health check-up of children is not a popular concept in India. Very few schools would be organising medical check-ups. The schools that cater to more than 80 percent of the population hardly organise health care and dental check-ups. Even dental hygiene is considered to be one of the biggest risk factors for children.

Dr Srinivasa: Convincing and educating parents about heart related illness in children is a big challenge. Many parents underestimate the size of an overweight child.

Parents also react defensively when told that their child is overweight, and this may lead to heart related problems.

Any new initiatives and strategies to improve heart health in children and adolescents?

Dr Viveka: Nowadays as families are getting smaller and married couples plan to have one or two children this is helping in bringing down cases of congenital heart disease. Awareness campaigns by Indian Society of Cardiology, and Association of Physicians too has given a boost in this direction. Data suggests that rheumatic heart disease has come down from 18 per 10,000 to less than 8. We hardly come across cases of rheumatic heart disease in cities, however, it is still common in rural parts of our country. The disease is a result of untreated or inadequately treated infection of the throat. It is a condition that damages heart valves. Also, coronary artery disease or heart attack disease is still on the rise because of the prevailing lifestyle. In developed countries the incidence of this disease has come down by 28 percent.

Dr Srinivasa: Currently we don’t have many such strategies. Some of the latest technologies to monitor cholesterol level, accessing abdominal gird are in a developing stage.

Read: No increase in heart attacks: Dr Hegde on World Heart Day 2020

Also read: How to detect cardiovascular diseases and keep them at bay

Also read: Time to focus on heart education

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