Children's Health

Little hearts can be building big problems

Obese boy listens to his heart

Parents, take note. Your children could be accumulating fat and plaques in their arteries that will lead to heart disease in the years to come. This means that the heart attacks a lot of people have as adults may have started to build up when they were children.

“This buildup often begins in childhood,” says Dr. Kenneth Murdison, a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

That’s why it’s so important to monitor your children’s weight through regular wellness visits with pediatricians who understand the importance of this issue. This lets physicians identify and treat problems early before serious complications arise.

Parents may not recognize that their children are overweight and at risk, especially if obesity is a family problem. If there’s a family history of high cholesterol, children should have their cholesterol levels checked as well.

Research has also shown that secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease. Parents need to be careful about smoking around children, as this may cause heart problems for them in the future.

The following signs may indicate that your child is headed for heart disease:
  • Being overweight or obese (This increases the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.)
  • High blood pressure
  • A family history of heart disease
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke

If your child has these signs, consult a pediatrician. Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and healthy eating can often reverse the trend and ensure better health in the years to come.

In fact, studies show that people who reach 45 without developing high blood pressure, diabetes or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease are much less likely to have a stroke or heart attack by age 80 than their peers.

Pediatricians who tackle childhood obesity  

Many pediatricians are uncomfortable addressing the issue of childhood obesity or simply don’t take the time to do it effectively. Obesity is not something to be ashamed of, but it needs to be properly dealt with for health purposes.

The primary care pediatricians at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia have long taken obesity seriously. They carefully monitor patients at each visit, plot the information on a standardized growth chart and discuss eating habits and exercise. This lets them identify problems early and encourage parents and children to make lifestyle changes. And, if needed, they have quick and easy access to the area’s only pediatric cardiologists.

The Children’s Hospital of Georgia has the largest team of general pediatricians, adolescent medicine physicians and pediatric specialists in the Augusta area. To make an appointment, visit augustahealth.org/kids or call 706-721-KIDS (5437).

About the author

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the only facility in the area dedicated exclusively to children. It staffs the largest team of pediatric specialists in the region who deliver out- and in- patient care for everything from common childhood illnesses to life-threatening conditions like heart disorders, cancer and neurological diseases.