When parents watch kids playing, they tend to enjoy the moment and not think too far into the future. One of the last things on their minds is their kid's health as adults.
Even so, parents can affect their children’s future health in positive ways by providing the foundation for making the right lifestyle choices in adulthood.
"We need to understand the long term risks of decisions made during childhood," says Beth Volin, MD, a pediatrician at Rush. "Risk factors for adult heart disease can start in childhood, so it makes so much sense to start early to curb these risks."
"Most patterns of eating, exercise and other lifestyle choices are established early in life. That does not mean that they can't be changed in adulthood, but you're giving your child a head start by teaching and modeling good lifestyle choices when they're young," says Volin.
"You're also giving their bodies a head start," she adds. "Studies have shown that plaque build up associated with arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is already present in some children. I have young patients who already have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes."
"Children often model their behavior after what they see their parents and older siblings doing. This is why its so important to set a good example. The family needs to set the pattern of healthy choices, which will establish a base for the childrens' choices as they grow and age," says Volin.
"These are lifestyle changes that can and should be carried into adulthood," says Volin. "I can't stress enough the importance of establishing these patterns early and reinforcing them through your own example. This can make an incredibly positive impact on the future health of your children."
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