Once thought of as a disease of middle age, heart disease -- including atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes and other blood vessel problems -- is a growing concern among our children and adolescents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the incidence of overweight kids and teens (children between the ages of six and 19) has tripled since 1970 -- today more than 30 percent of American kids are considered overweight or obese.
The American Heart Association, along with other childhood obesity experts, blames the epidemic on our growing sedentary lifestyle and lackluster nutritional habits. Think of days filled with television, video games and other technology that encourages us to sit, and diets filled with fast food and highly processed foods.
But weight and lifestyle aren't the only culprits. Heart disease can also be in our genes: Family history of early heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure also increases our odds for atherosclerosis (plaque building up in arteries), high cholesterol and lipid abnormalities.
See the next page to learn about early detection and treatment options.