Children who spend too much time watching television or playing computer games may have an increased risk for future cardiovascular risks, according to a recent study published by the American Heart Association.
The study reported that kids who spend more time on the couch have narrower eye arteries than kids who are more physically active. Narrower arteries are a sign of future risk of heart disease.
Who’s at risk?
Researchers studied nearly 1,500 6- and 7-year-olds in Australia. On average, the children spent close to two hours a day watching TV or in front of a computer and 36 minutes participating in physical activity.
Kids who spent the most time glued to a screen had the narrowest retinal arteries. Likewise, those who were the most active had significantly wider retinal arteries.
Studies in adults suggest narrowed blood vessels in the eyes indicate increased heart disease risk since they are part of the brain’s vascular system and respond to stress and disease just like other blood vessels.
Researchers said more studies need to be done, but the findings suggest a sedentary lifestyle even early in life can affect blood vessel health and increase cardiovascular risk.
What can parents do?
The average child and teen in the U.S. spends seven hours a day watching television or using computers, phones or other electronic devices, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That is four more hours than the average TV-viewing time in 1999 and five hours more than the two-hour limit recommended by the AAP for children over age 2, according to WebMD.
Replacing screen time with activities will benefi t your child’s health. The more children exercise and engage in physical activity, the healthier they will be. Parents can be role models by being active themselves and playing outside games with their family.
Western Baptist helps children
Western Baptist is committed to fighting childhood obesity and making children — and their parents and caregivers — “heart smart.” With a grant from Western Baptist Hospital, Concord Elementary School this fall will become the fourth area school to launch Project Fit America, a fitness program aimed at reducing childhood obesity. Paducah’s McNabb Elementary and Graves County’s Central Elementary were awarded the program in 2007, while Lone Oak Elementary received it in 2009.
The grant includes playground equipment with fi tness stations to offer new activity options, while the accompanying curriculum and teacher training for all grade levels integrate a fit lifestyle in their daily lessons. We need to intervene early to educate children, parents, teachers and anyone involved in their care too make their adult lives healthy and happy. We know preventing or treating childhood obesity may reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
Chest Pain & Stroke Hotline
If you have questions about heart attack or stroke symptoms, you can talk to a Western Baptist nurse free 24 hours a day on the Chest Pain & Stroke Hotline: 1-800-575-1911
Send your questions!
Do you have a cardiac question tugging at your heart? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it to HeartBeat, 2501 Kentucky Ave., Paducah, KY 42003. If we use it in a future HeartBeat column, you will receive a Western Baptist Hospital door prize.