Despite efforts to reverse the trend, childhood obesity has continued to climb since 1999. Researchers found that 33 percent of kids in national surveys were overweight in 2014, compared with 28 percent in 1999, according to a recent study in the journal Obesity.

Daisy Lazarous, MD

Daisy Lazarous, MD

Alarmingly, overweight kids are likely to have heart problems later in life, says Daisy Lazarous, MD, a cardiologist with Adventist HealthCare Adventist Medical Group.

“Obesity has become an epidemic in this country, in both adults and children. Childhood obesity is associated with multiple health conditions that can take a toll on your heart health in adulthood,” said Dr. Lazarous

Obesity can cause:

Heart disease is No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., and obesity has overtaken smoking as the leading cause of premature heart attack. With childhood obesity on the rise, doctors are seeing a trend of heart disease developing earlier in adulthood, said Dr. Lazarous.

She recommends that doctors and parents begin keeping an eye on kids’ heart health from birth by following these tips.

  • Check blood pressure beginning at age 3
  • Screen cholesterol levels between ages 9 to 11
  • Encourage healthy eating habits
  • Promote physical activity at home and at school

Shockingly, plaque buildup in the heart’s aorta that could eventually cause heart disease can start as early as 9 years old, said Dr. Lazarous.

She added that it’s important for parents to act as role models by eating healthy, leading active lifestyles and not smoking.

Get kids active by:

  • Walking or cycling to school
  • Getting outdoors more often
  • Working towards a goal like a fun run, charity walk or family challenge
  • Scheduling activities so you’re less likely to skip it
  • Supporting your kids in sports or clubs that get them moving

Kids often pick up their diet and exercise habits early in life from their parents, so it’s important to start them on the track to a healthy heart early!

Want to learn more about your heart health? Take our fast, free heart risk assessment.

Sources: Time.com; American Heart Association