Healthy Kids, Healthy Adults

Dennis Perman_Message of the Week

Dear Doctor:

A recent study out of Finland that followed children’s health over thirty years discovered a logical but meaningful observation – cardiovascular risk factors in youth lead to poor brain function in adulthood.

The research was published in the American Heart Association journal “Circulation,” and was the first study to link long-term health issues beginning with kids to diminished cognitive function later in life.

Kids, adolescents, and young adults who had more risk factors, like obesity, high blood pressure and elevated bad cholesterol, performed worse on memory and thinking tests.

Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, AHA’s chief medical officer for prevention, said “one-third of U.S. children are overweight… which puts them at higher risk of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure in childhood and a higher risk of heart disease and stroke in adulthood.”

This is important because it foretells the early onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Since there are limited treatments for such brain problems, it makes so much more sense to help kids develop better lifestyle habits while they’re young, to avoid unnecessary mental disorders as they age.

AHA spokesperson Dr. Thuy Bui, who serves as the associate medical director of the emergency department at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, stated, “If we can resolve some of these issues early on, it’s been shown that it not only leads to a much better cognitive life but also a much better cardiovascular life as you hit midlife and beyond.”

In 1980, 3600 children were chosen, to examine cardiovascular risk in young people and the net effect of unchecked obesity, hypertension and raised cholesterol. Over 31 years, they arrived at an unmistakable conclusion – based on computerized testing, kids with consistently high blood pressure or too much bad cholesterol had compromised memory and learning in midlife.

Overweight or obese kids had slower visual processing and decreased attention span. And those who had all three risk factors, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, scored poorly across the cognitive spectrum – weaker memory, hampered visual processing and learning skills, slower reaction times, and reduced attention span.

The lead author, Juuso Hakala, doctoral student in preventive cardiology at the University of Turku in Finland, reported on the relevance of these findings, saying, “We can use these results to turn the focus of brain health from old age and midlife to people in younger age groups — children who have adverse cardiovascular risk factors might benefit from early intervention and lifestyle modifications.”

Yes! It’s up to us to guide families to develop better lifestyle habits from an early age. By noting the relationship between being overweight and having coronary issues and poor thinking and memory skills in later life, we can help safeguard our young against brain malfunction when they grow up.

Help your kids and those kids you influence to manage their diet and their weight, and encourage them to exercise, limit their screen time, and maintain a positive attitude about healthy habits. Not only will it increase their odds of having healthy brains, it will also be good for our society, as fewer people deteriorate mentally and more people live longer and healthier lives.

As thought leaders in health and wellness, we have a responsibility, not only to provide expert care for those we serve, but also to step up and contribute as much as possible to the greater good. This pattern of sick kids becoming sick adults must be interrupted, and we’re the ones who can do it.

Dennis Perman DC, for The Masters Circle Global

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