We’ve known for many years—at least since the 1970s—that heart disease starts young. And yet, for at least that long, people haven’t bothered to do anything about it.
Well… most people. Way back in 1998, I wrote a book to address this exact problem, called Feed Your Kids Well.
It was a hit in the healthcare community, becoming the No.1 children’s health book for more than a year. But predictably, it tanked in the popular press, as they deemed it unnecessary to “deprive” children of toxic, sugar-laden “treats.”
Fast forward to 2019—where a new study might have all those naysayers backpedaling.
Unhealthy at any size…
According to this latest research, more than one third of middle schoolers who were screened for cardiovascular health turned up with abnormal blood sugar or cholesterol levels. And while only 45 kids submitted to this testing, the findings are no less shocking.
Among them: Less than 60 percent had BMI in the normal or low ranges. More than 40 percent, meanwhile, were overweight or obese. About the same percentage of students also had high body fat… including nearly ten percent of kids whose BMIs were in the normal-to-low range. (Normal BMI is calculated based on individual height and weight.)
But perhaps more startlingly, close to one quarter had high triglycerides—the culprit behind fatty liver, and the true heart health villain. (And in case you’re wondering, that figure includes some 12 percent of normal and low BMI kids.)
What’s more, nearly 35 percent of these middle schoolers had high cholesterol and blood sugar… including a good quarter of kids with lower BMIs.
As you can see, it isn’t just about weight and BMI, as even kids with a normal BMI can have metabolic issues. (A phenomenon you might have heard as “skinny fat.”) So needless to say, an emphasis on health, rather than just weight, is particularly critical in this younger population.
Though to be honest, I’d be thrilled to see a meaningful focus on either.
Kids’ health starts at home
In the 20 years since writing my book, overweight and obesity rates in children have skyrocketed. So I can only hope that this latest news brings about a whole new audience of parents and kids, however late to the game.
Because at the end of the day, children benefit the most from lifestyle modifications. And we can really curb health care costs over our lifetimes if we start at a young age.
Yet, for some reason, it still isn’t happening. And I guess the real question is, why?
Maybe it’s simply a question of policy. And maybe that’s set to change: After all, the so-called “experts” who once discredited my ideas are now calling for metabolic screens in middle schools—including cholesterol and HgBA1c readings—to help identify at-risk kids.
Even the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association—always a day late and a dollar short—are recommending routine screening of school-age kids for high blood pressure, cholesterol issues, and diabetes.
But sadly, I’m not even sure any of this will matter—and here’s why.
At the middle school where this study took place, the parents of 290 students were asked to participate. And of those, only 45—a mere 16 percent—consented to a simple, free blood test.
But I still have hope. I recently had a mom bring her son to my office to help him reach a healthy weight. As it turned out, he also had early-onset type 2 diabetes.
And though we only just started working together, I’m certain he’ll do well. Especially because he has a parent who’s willing to face reality… and do what it takes to give her son the future that he, like all kids, deserves.
“Abnormal Blood Sugar, Cholesterol Common in Middle School.” Medscape Medical News, 03/15/2019. (medscape.com/viewarticle/910475)