THURSDAY, June 28, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- School nurses are crucial to promoting heart health among children and youth, according to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA).
Starting efforts to reduce cardiovascular disease risk during childhood is an important part of preventing the illness, according to Laura Hayman, head of the statement writing group and a professor of nursing in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.
"Identifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease is a key component of primary prevention; thus, schools, preschools and other community-based settings where child care is provided are important places to begin educating children and families about cardiovascular disease risk," she said in a prepared statement.
And authors of the AHA statement, published online June 25 in Circulation, identified key players in helping to reduce heart disease risk in children and youth -- school nurses.
"Because they're knowledgeable about resources in their communities, school nurses are well-positioned to provide appropriate referrals for children and their families once a risk factor is identified," said Hayman.
The statement recommends that school nurses participate in heart-health education and behavioral skill training; advocate for heart-healthy school policies and school-community partnership for providing heart disease risk screening; and encourage kids to eat a healthful diet, exercise and not smoke.
In addition to highlighting the importance of nurses, the statement emphasizes healthy lifestyle behaviors and therapeutic lifestyle change in preventing heart disease and promoting lifelong heart health in children.
"Prevention needs to begin early in life, with the adoption and maintenance of healthy lifestyle behaviors," Hayman said.
Markers of cardiovascular disease can be present in early childhood, along with risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, smoking and obesity.
The American Heart Association has more about children and heart disease.