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Children at risk for heart disease; fighting off the triple-demic

September 8, 2023 at 10:00 p.m.

Q: My son's pediatrician says that he's at risk for heart disease. That seems ridiculous, he's only 12. Should I get a second opinion? -- Gloria T., Moline, Illinois

A: Second opinions are always a good idea -- especially if you're unsure of the advice or diagnosis you or your child has received. But ... and listen carefully ... if your child is one of the 39% of kids between age 12 and 19 who are overweight or obese, there are serious health repercussions, including premature heart attack and stroke. In addition, around 53% of kids have elevated lousy LDL cholesterol and triglycerides; 18% have prediabetes; and 15% have elevated blood pressure.

And as dangerous as all that is -- it's even more dangerous that most kids aren't lucky enough to have a tuned-in doctor who checks for those risks and wants to help you restore your child's health. A new study in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, shows that across the country, kids who have these risk factors for heart disease often have to wait a year to see a pediatric cardiologist -- a year that can make a major difference in their immediate and long-term health.

If your doctor can't find a cardiologist who can see your child quickly, there is still a lot you can do. A change in diet to encourage weight loss and a family commitment to daily exercise can help your child reduce the profound health risks he is facing. Eliminate highly processed foods from your pantry; serve vegetables and fruits in every meal. Make sure your child gets an hour of sweaty, fun activity daily. In addition, you can have your child's heart health monitored regularly by the pediatrician. If you and the doctor conclude your new lifestyle changes aren't enough to improve your child's heart, work with the pediatrician to identify local programs to manage your child's cardiovascular risk factors or contact the American Heart Association for information on local resources.

Q: I know you say that everyone should get a flu shot as soon as they are available, but what about another COVID-19 vaccine and this RSV one? -- Steph Y., Orlando, Florida

A: To head off a triple-demic this winter, experts recommend that everyone 6 months and older should get the new flu shot. Vaccinations for COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are also being recommended for some or all folks.

COVID-19: Pharmaceutical companies are working on this year's version of the COVID-19 shot -- modified to work against newer strains of the virus. Exactly when it will be available is not known (probably end of September). When it is, it's recommended for everyone 6 months and older, including pregnant women. This is particularly important if you have not been vaccinated or been vaccinated only once. As for other folks, despite the recommendation, we are waiting on new data for those already vaccinated and boosted two or three times. The Cleveland Clinic research indicates that a fourth mRNA COVID-19 shot (booster) hindered rather than strengthened immunity for those under age 50 who were already vaccinated. And it may be best to wait for more data, even for older folks or those at high risk, who have had been vaccinated and boosted at least twice. So talk to your doc, discuss your added risk factors, and stay tuned for more information.

RSV: There is now a first-time vaccine for RSV. It's approved for newborns and infants born during or entering their first RSV season, and in children up to 24 months of age who remain vulnerable to severe RSV disease through their second RSV season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends the vaccine for adults age 60+. Between 60,000-160,000 older U.S. adults are hospitalized and 6,000 to 10,000 die due to RSV infection annually. RSV can be particularly harmful to folks with asthma, COPD or congestive heart failure. There is not enough data on how the RSV shot interacts with the other vaccines, so get it on its own.

Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. Check out his latest, "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow," and find out more at Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Mike at [email protected].

King Features Syndicate

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