Steps to take care of your child’s heart health  

 Dr. Vinoth Duraisamy, Pediatric Cardiologist, PSG SS Hospitals

The world is witnessing millions of children being born with severe heart related diseases every year. Great many children don’t get the privilege to treat their ailment in a state of the art facility but there are many measures parents could take to ensure that their child in womb or in their hand evades from heart disease.

Dr. Vinoth Duraisamy, Pediatric Cardiologist, PSG Super Specialty Hospital shares with those measures to keep our children’s heart healthy.

“A 25 year old boy came to PSG Hospitals with chest pain. ECG showed signs of heart attack. His angiogram showed severe blockage in one of the major blood vessels supplying the heart. Stenting was done and he recovered. He was a smoker. Such a scenario of young heart attacks is not uncommon nowadays.

Heart attacks are due to problems which start in childhood like obesity, BP, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. In fact, fatty deposits which cause blocks in the blood vessels also start from childhood. Unfortunately, Indians are more prone when compared to the West. So it is important to start early!

Pregnant mothers should eat a well-balanced diet, achieve appropriate weight gain and exercise right. In order to lessen the risk of congenital heart defects (holes in the heart/valve blockages), folic acid and rubella vaccination should be taken prenatally. Only doctor prescribed medicines should be taken. Pregnant mothers having diabetes, high BP or infections should be followed up closely. Babies born under / overweight are more at risk of developing metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, cholesterol) which could lead to heart attacks in later life. Foetal echocardiography (pregnancy heart scan) at 16 – 20 weeks can be done to diagnoses heart defects before birth.

Exclusive breast feeding should be practiced up to 6 months of age. Kids should be encouraged to eat a well-balanced diet comprising whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Saturated fat, transfat and refined sugars seen in snacks, pastries, biscuits and fruit drinks should be avoided. Whole fruits should be preferred to fruit juice.

Physical inactivity is now the 4th leading cause of death. Moderate to vigorous physical activity (tennis, swimming, basketball, jogging) for 30 – 60 min should be encouraged daily. Exercise improves good cholesterol, diabetes, BP and obesity. It also directly keeps the blood vessels healthy lessening risk of heart attacks and strokes. There is a ‘dose response effect’ meaning more exercise, more benefits. Exercise improves mental health thereby indirectly avoiding weight gain. Yoga also improves cardiac and mental health. Exercise and yoga are medicines for a healthy heart without any side effects.

Screen time should be reduced to less than 2 hours every day preferably for the whole family. Increasing screen time promotes obesity, inactivity and unhealthy lifestyle. It should be stopped at least 1 hour before bedtime. 8 – 10 hours of sleep every day is important.

It is essential to check your kids’ blood pressure and monitor weight beyond 3yrs. Familial high cholesterol (which runs in families) is quite common and can cause young heart attacks so cholesterol and sugar levels should be checked beyond 9yrs. Teens should avoid smoking and alcohol. Schools and communities play a very important role in promoting healthy lifestyles in children.”