Image for children's heart health articleCardiovascular disease includes conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, such as atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries), heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. While you may think that these conditions are more of a concern for adults, researchers are now highlighting how important it is to prevent cardiovascular disease from developing in children.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has developed guidelines to help promote heart health in children. It’s never too early to think about your child’s future! Learn how doctors can identify whether your child is at risk, what can be done to prevent cardiovascular problems, and which treatments can improve your child’s chances of being a healthy adult.

Based on the latest research, the NHLBI’s guidelines provide ways for doctors to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease in children. Recommended screenings include:

Screening NHLBI Recommendation
Blood pressure measurement annually beginning at age three years and then at every visit starting at age 18 years
Lipid profile (tests for cholesterol problems) once between ages 9-11 years and again between ages 17-21 years; measure at other times if child is at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease due to family history of cardiovascular disease or child has diabetes, high blood pressure, or if the child is overweight
Body mass index (BMI) tracking started at age two years

Other important factors that the doctor will consider include whether your child:

  • Has been exposed to secondhand smoke or has a personal history of smoking
  • Has a family history of cardiovascular disease
  • Has a sedentary lifestyle
  • Has a poor diet

By evaluating your child, the doctor can address conditions that are closely linked to cardiovascular problems, like obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.