The following excerpt is from a blog post by American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown published on The Huffington Post's The Blog on August 27th. It is first in a series produced by The Huffington Post and the American Heart Association addressing important, timely topics in heart health and wellness. In the coming weeks, Nancy and featured experts will examine the issues related to heart disease and provide information, ideas and insight on the Huffington Post's The Blog.
Every parent wants the very best for their children. With back-to-school season underway, there's no better time to put the spotlight on one of the most important ways we can help them: by encouraging them to develop healthy lifestyles at the youngest possible age. In addition to the ABCs and arithmetic, our earliest years are when we learn and build daily habits that can last a lifetime. Many of these habits, like the foods and beverages we consume and the amount of physical activity we get, can have a profound effect on the quality of our lives and our likelihood of developing major illnesses later in life. As Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald wrote, healthy lifestyles, along with risk factor awareness and regular screenings, are essential to maintaining optimum health.
It's important to get kids off to the healthiest possible start, and that message has never been more urgent than it is today. In recent years, we've seen the very troubling emergence of obesity as a national health crisis, impacting not only adults but also children. Today, about one of three American kids and teens are overweight or obese, nearly triple the rate in 1963. This is a trend that has to be halted, and it's a challenge that has major implications for our nation's future.
Among children today, obesity is causing a broad range of physical health problems -- such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels -- that previously weren't seen until adulthood. Excess weight at a young age has been linked to higher and earlier death rates in adulthood. In fact, obese children as young as age 3 show indicators for developing heart disease later in life. And overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults.