A Healthy Heart from Childhood

A Healthy Heart from Childhood | UPMC Italy

Cardiovascular diseases are still the leading cause of death in our country, being responsible for 34.8 percent of all deaths. The good news is that they are largely preventable and avoidable. A healthy lifestyle can make a difference to heart health, starting in childhood.

Adopting a Heart-healthy Lifestyle from an Early Age

Children begin forming their habits at an early age, emulating what their parents and the people they come into closest contact with do. Our actions can play an important role in teaching them to appreciate and value, for example, exercise and a balanced diet, and that wise choices today can ensure their long-term health.

Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Problems Family History

It is important to tell the pediatrician if anyone in the family has suffered from chest pain, heart attack, coronary artery disease or stroke, or has had heart disease such as heart attack. Knowing the child's risk factors will help the doctor determine the best plan for the child.


Italy ranks among the top countries for incidence of childhood obesity; several studies show that children who are overweight or obese are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults, increasing their risk of heart disease.


Children and adolescents who exercise daily have better indicators of cardiac health: lower blood pressure, a lower body mass index, lower bad cholesterol (LDL), lower triglycerides. They also tend to make better food choices and are less likely to smoke.

Smoking and tobacco

Tobacco use significantly increases the risk of heart disease: smoking is not a good habit to pass on to your children. Exposure to secondhand smoke is also harmful to children.

Cholesterol levels

Cholesterol is essential to our health. But an excess of "bad cholesterol" (LDL) is a risk factor for heart disease. Exercise and eating healthy foods can help reduce it. It is advisable to screen children between the ages of 9 and 11 for lipid levels to check indicators. It is usually repeated between the ages of 17 and 21.

How Much Physical Activity is Recommended for Children and Adults?

For adults, about 150 minutes per week of moderate to intense aerobic activity to be supplemented with strength training.

For children, one hour of activity per day is ideal. Being outdoors playing is also a way to keep them active. Involving teenagers in an after-school activity or organized sport allows them to get regular exercise.

Even better if you find physical activities that the whole family can enjoy, such as biking, or taking walks.

Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Comes Through the Table

The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that a third of cardiovascular and cancer diseases are preventable through a healthy and balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables, legumes, especially soy, and whole grains are just some of the foods allied to heart health.

Green leafy vegetables

Rich in vitamin K, which helps protect arteries.

Source of nitrates, which reduce blood pressure; slow aging of arteries; improve function of blood vessel lining. But favoring foods that contain specific nutrients essential for the heart is not all: consuming them in the correct doses is equally important.

Fresh and dried fruits

Fresh fruit is a reservoir of vitamins, A, B1, B2, B3 and C, which protect the heart and arteries. Go for citrus, mango, kiwi, plums, apricots, cherries, apples, cantaloupe, pineapple, berries.

Red fruits contain antioxidants that can fight, slow or neutralize free radicals and help keep bad cholesterol and blood pressure in check.

Dried fruits are rich in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids that fight rising blood pressure and clean arteries of bad cholesterol.


Has a high content of omega3 fatty acids, which reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death as well as the death rate due to heart disease.


Are a source of plant protein and macronutrients (fiber, carbohydrates) and low in sugar and fat. In addition, they contain iron, which decreases bad cholesterol; potassium, which reduces blood pressure; and phosphorus, which promotes good muscle function, thus the heart.


Soy is a legume high in protein and rich in omega-3 fatty acids and lecithin, phosphorus-rich substances with anticholesterolemic properties.

It keeps blood triglycerides low and keeps diabetes under control.

Cereals (whole grains)

Whole-grain bread, pasta and rice, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat, and quinoa are rich in fiber that helps reduce bad cholesterol.

If you have any questions about heart health and how to prevent cardiovascular disease, we encourage you to consult a specialist.

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