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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the greatest health problems faced by the United States and the world. It is the term used to describe all conditions that affect the heart and the blood vessels. Approximately 610,000 Americans die of it every year. It is one of the leading causes of death and targets both men and women. Men, however, have been shown to be more prone to it than women. The most common cardiovascular diseases include heart disease, stroke, and hypertension. Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), in particular, kills over 370,000 people annually. These diseases are also the major causes of disability in the United States.

Contrary to popular perception, even children and teenagers can be affected by CVD. Although it happens very rarely (only 6 out of 100,000 children are likely to have a heart disease somewhere between birth and adulthood), it still happens. And when it does, it can be very devastating emotionally and psychologically to both the teenager and his/her parents or guardians.

Most of the time, cardiovascular disease is caused by a process called atherosclerosis. This is the gradual narrowing and restriction of the blood flow to a person's heart due to plaque (fats and cholesterol) build-up on the artery walls. When this process affects major body arteries, it can cause a stroke or a heart attack.

Risk Factors, Who Are Affected
Unfortunately, there are uncontrollable factors associated with increasing a person's risk of having a heart disease. These factors include age and genetic factors.

The older a person becomes, the more prone he/she is to heart disease. This is also why things like healthy diet and exercise are always recommended for older people since they are more prone to diseases such as CVD.

Family history should also be taken into account. If your family has a history of heart problems, then you also have a higher chance of having one. The best thing a person, especially a teenager, can do in this case is to prepare for it by ensuring that he/she does not make it worse by having a healthy diet and doing more exercises.

Nevertheless, many of the factors associated with cardiovascular disease are controllable. These include excess weight, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and unhealthy lifestyle. This means that obese and sedentary people are more prone to having CVD. The same goes for people heavily engaged in smoking, drinking, and eating unhealthy food. If you think you are at risk of having cardiovascular disease due to uncontrollable factors, then at least be sure that you have normal weight, regular activity, and a good lifestyle.

Furthermore, despite old age being a factor in higher cardiovascular disease risks, children and teenagers can also be affected, in which cases 60% have been boys. For this age group, the risk factor is increased by underlying medical conditions such as sickle cell disease, infections, heart problems, and head and neck disorders.

This is especially difficult for children and teenagers emotionally and psychologically due to the fact that their peers get to enjoy their lives through sports and other forms of entertainment while they can't due to their heart condition. Children and teenagers suffering from CVD need a strong support system to get them through this difficulty.

Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms usually vary depending on the type of heart disease a person has. But the most common symptoms include the following:

Chest pain or discomfort Jaw, neck, or back pain or discomfort Muscle weakness Light-headedness or nausea Arm or shoulder pain or discomfort Shortness of breath

Teenagers who have medical conditions, in particular, need to be well-monitored as they might collapse during a stroke while playing or hanging out with friends outside the house. Also, they might not complain about certain symptoms since they might not see them as problems. As parents, always be on the alert for these symptoms: head pain, trouble speaking or understanding, weakness, vision problems, confusion, decreased alertness, and poor balance. If your teen shows any of those, get him/her medical attention right away.

Diagnosing a heart disease requires several tests, including X-rays, coronary angiograms, electrocardiograms, and stress tests. It is recommended to consult a doctor immediately if you notice the symptoms of CVD.

Minimizing the Risk
The most common recommendation that doctors and health specialists give people suffering from heart conditions is to have a healthy diet. You should cut down significantly on sodium, sugar, and fat. Moreover, especially for teenagers, it is recommended to have a higher intake of foods from the dairy food group such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Studies have shown that they are good at protecting the body from heart disease and other related conditions such as stroke and high blood pressure. Therefore, parents should also regulate the diet of their teenagers to make sure they are not susceptible to a higher risk of having CVD at a very young age.

In addition, superfoods such as ghee, chia seeds, fish, nuts, and berries are also recommended for they contain vitamins, nutrients, and minerals such as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants which are good for heart health and protection.

The second most recommended way to minimize the risk of heart disease is regular exercise. This goes to both adults and teenagers. While adults can do it on their own, teenagers might need more push and assistance from their parents in order to do regular exercises. Parents might have to force them to exercise from time to time since they are least likely to do physical exercises on their own.

Regular exercise contributes to cardiovascular health in two ways: weight reduction and cholesterol reduction. Exercise enables your body to burn fat and consequently reduce your weight. Additionally, it also lowers your cholesterol by removing high amounts of low-density Lipoprotein (LPL), also known as “bad cholesterol,” from your body.

Lastly, it is recommended to have a healthy lifestyle. This means staying away from cigarettes and alcohol. This applies more to adults since most teenagers are generally prohibited from drinking and smoking. Both cigarettes and alcohol introduce harmful substances to your body, which also has bad effects on your heart.

Final Thoughts on Prevention of Heart Disease for Teenagers
Despite the fact that heart disease may affect almost anyone, due to the availability of information online and otherwise, we can now do our best to try to prevent it or at least prepare for it.

Be mindful of your increasing age. Review your family history. If you notice the signs and symptoms above, consult a doctor immediately. Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. Consider including dairy products and superfoods into your daily intake. Be sure to exercise regularly. Avoid smoking and drinking. Make the conscious choice to be healthy.

This is especially crucial for children and teenagers. During this stage of their lives, they are supposed to have fun with their peers and enjoy the world around them. But if they experience a stroke due to their underlying medical conditions, they will be deprived of that opportunity. Suffering from the effects of cardiovascular disease as a teenager can be emotionally and psychologically depressing. Therefore, parents and guardians have a responsibility to do what they can in order to minimize the risk. That starts with ensuring they have access to superfoods for a healthy diet and making them exercise regularly.

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