(The Daily Dish) Heart health is something that should be considered not only in adulthood, but for kids of all ages, starting in the womb.

“It’s important to start heart healthy habits, from diet to screenings, starting with a fetal ultrasound,” said Dr. Dr. Nelangi Pinto, a pediatric cardiologist at University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, and medical director of the Primary Children’s Fetal Heart Program. “The 20-week anatomy scan for expectant mothers is an exciting time, when many women focus on the sex of the baby. But we encourage all mothers to remember that cardiac screening is an important part of that exam, and to ask how the heart is looking in the ultrasound too.”

Fetal cardiac screenings can spot heart defects before the baby is born, allowing the mother and care team to determine the best way to address the issue so the baby can have a better chance at heart health from birth, said Dr. Pinto, who is one of two Utah Women of Impact nominees for the American Heart Association and is raising awareness of heart disease and prevention at all of ages.

3 things parents can do to promote heart health at every stage:

  • When introducing baby to solid foods, include fruits and vegetables, and continue to serve them with meals and as snacks as the child grows to build heart-healthy eating habits.
  • Know what heart screenings are offered at well-child checkups. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cholesterol screening starting between ages 9-11 years. Parents can be proactive and ask for the screening. Parents of young athletes also should tell their pediatrician about their activities to help them screen in ways helpful to very active children.
  • Help children stay active. While school physical education programs are more varied, and screen time makes children more sedentary than past generations, parents can model physical activity with their children. After dinner, go on a neighborhood walk, or hold an impromptu dance party.

“The most important thing is to keep it simple and fun,” Dr. Pinto said. “Eating more plant-based foods along with regular physical activity as a family, from playing catch or playing tag in the yard or taking a walk in the neighborhood or playing at the park, helps kids develop heart-healthy habits they can carry into adulthood.”

Dr. Nelangi Pinto is a pediatric cardiologist at University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, and medical director of the Primary Children’s Fetal Heart Program. She was also named one of two Utah Women of Impact nominees by the American Heart Association. She is working to raise awareness of heart disease and prevention at all of ages.

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