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Millions of American children face early heart disease, if their families don't do something now, says Caren Goldberg, M.D., of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center.

"The cardiovascular diseases that we think of in adults, like heart attack and stroke, stem from processes that actually start in childhood," says Goldberg. "Several factors put children and adults at risk of heart disease: family history, a diet that's high in fat, obesity, and poor exercise habits."

All of those factors combine to effect the way children's blood vessels work, Goldberg explains. After about age 2, too much fat, too little exercise, and too many extra pounds can cause kids' blood vessels to respond abnormally, leading to higher blood pressure and deposits of plaque and setting the stage for later problems.

Family history is based on the genes that everyone inherits from their parents and grandparents. But just because there's heart disease in a child's family, especially heart disease that strikes at a young age, it doesn't mean that the child is doomed to have a heart attack. The same is true for overweight kids.

"If a child sees his or her parents eating a healthy diet and having excellent exercise habits, then it will come absolutely naturally to that child and be easier for them," Goldberg says.

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Kern Family Health 25 yrs
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