by Carole Carson, AARP, February 15, 2010
As you probably know, February is American Heart Month, a time to focus our awareness on keeping our hearts and bodies healthy.
Until the past decade or so, I had the mistaken notion that heart disease primarily affected men. That had been the case in my family. My father died of a heart attack, and my brother underwent quadruple-bypass surgery.
In contrast, my mother, four sisters, and I had seemingly escaped heart disease. That the women in our family would remain protected was a comforting, yet mistaken, idea. At the age of 38, my daughter, Jamie, required a valve transplant, and a few years later suffered cardiac arrest and nearly died. Today, thanks to educational efforts on many fronts, most of us are aware that heart disease is the number-one killer of women.
Yet even more education is needed about another segment of society increasingly affected by heart disease: children.
Today, growing numbers of children are at risk for developing heart disease because of the rising incidence of childhood obesity. The issue has become so urgent that blood pressure screening should start at age 3, according to a report in Pediatrics prepared by the National High Blood Pressure Education Program Working Group on High Blood Pressure in Children and Adolescents.
The authors write, “Primary hypertension is detectable in the young and occurs commonly. The long-term health risks for hypertensive children and adolescents can be substantial.” Moreover, the authors urge pediatricians to become familiar with the evaluation and treatment of hypertension in children.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute also urges pediatricians, pediatric nurses, school health personnel, and health-care providers for children and adolescents, to screen for heart disease by measuring blood pressure. Since children have lower readings than adults, the Institute developed a special hypertension-screening tool to measure blood pressure in pediatric and adolescent children ages 3 through 17.
What can concerned parents, grandparents, and family members do? In a New England Journal of Medicine editorial, David S. Ludwig, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of Medicine at Children's Hospital in Boston, outlines three measures that concerned adults could support:
Regulation of junk-food advertising
Funding for healthy lunches and physical activities at school
Requiring that insurers cover programs to prevent and treat child obesity
Parents can also become familiar with the American Heart Association's overview of exercise and nutrition guidelines for children.
If enough of us get involved, we can make a difference in the lives of young ones around us, whether they are our students, neighbors, sons, daughters, or grandchildren. What can you do?
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Enter address, city, state, or ZIP code.
Driver Safety (0)
Tax Aide (0)
Entertainment & Dining (0)
Healthcare & Insurance (0)
Financial Services & Insurance (0)
Member Local Offers (0)
Visit the AARP state page for information about events, news and resources near you.
Members save on in-home caregiving services.
Members get 10% off monthly fees, plus free installation and package savings on a safety monitoring system.
Members can take a free confidential hearing test by phone.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at