The 3rd week of gestation marks the beginning stages for development of the heart. By the 5th week the heart begins to divide into chambers as the tiny muscle begins to beat. At approximately 6 weeks blood is flowing inside the body and the heart can be heard for the first time. It is amazing that this little tiny structure continuing to develop is already capable of beating at a rate of 100-160 beats per minute. To place this in perspective, the healthy adult heart beats in a range between 50 and 85 times per minute. By the 9th month the baby is pumping 300 gallons of blood through its body each day.
Once the child is born, the heart begins receiving all the wonderful nutrition necessary from the mother’s breast milk if willing and able. Breast fed babies are prone to avoiding food allergies, gastrointestinal illness and childhood obesity. The introduction of REAL FOOD generally begins anywhere between 4-6-8 months of age on average. What foods are suggested by our doctors to begin our lifelong feeding process?
Cereal is the #1 recommendation provided by the Mayo clinic. Cereal is a grain that provides questionable nutritional value for adults let alone children with gastrointestinal tracts still developing. It can act as an irritant to the intestinal lining and cause inflammation with resulting allergies.
It is my opinion that better choices are available. Most doctors would agree that breast milk and pureed fresh vegetables would provide a healthy diet for the young infant without any damaging side effects. All early foods can temporarily cause minor GI disruption including diarrhea and constipation. Other great first foods would include sweet potato, winter squash, asparagus, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, spinach, greens, or green beans. Avocados could also be introduced for healthy sources of fat. Somewhere between 8 months and 1 year quality meat can be introduced into the diet along with fish and chicken. Additional sources of good protein may include yogurt and egg yolks. (Egg whites are pure protein, however, some infants can develop an allergy to this source of protein.)
This is the type of diet needed for infants to thrive. This is the HEART HEALTHY DIET which begins somewhere between 6 months and 1 yr. on average. Is this the diet we see most infants consuming early in life?
Typically, I see gold fish, cheerios, fruit juices, candy, crackers, cookies and french fries as children are strolled around grocery stores. Their taste for sugar and fatty foods develop quickly making “bitter” tasting vegetables significantly less attractive. This is one reason parents have a harder time getting children to eat vegetables. If we don’t take the time to provide quality nutrition to our infants, how can we expect them to grow up and understand what it takes to live a HEART HEALTHY LIFE?
Obesity doesn’t start when the BMI (body mass index used to measure healthy weight, overweight and obesity) exceeds 30 as we’re taught; it starts when we provide damaging toxic foods to our infants before they reach the age of 1! It becomes PHYSICALLY EVIDENT many years later as the patterns we teach our children begin to destroy their young lives.
Heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease are conditions becoming more prevalent in CHILDREN. These were considered adult diseases only twenty years ago. Children are developing plaque buildup in their major cardiac arteries. Their cholesterol levels have risen to the point where prescription medication is being recommended. Poor nutrition extends to the micronutrient level (vitamins and minerals) as well leading to childhood cardiac diseases. Keshan disease (although rare) is an example that occurs from a selenium deficiency resulting in an enlarged heart and poor heart function. This ultimately develops into congenital heart failure without supplementing this simple mineral.
Children deserve the opportunity to live healthier lives than we, as adults, are providing for them. Parents are not evil beings; they are individuals with busy lives filled with stress and a multitude of responsibilities. I believe they are completely unaware (in many cases) of the extensive damage their children are subjected to with the poor dietary habits they support. Food choices can actually look like this.
The heart is an amazing structure capable of incredible function. It develops from 1 cell and ultimately pumps about 2000 gallons of blood each day in the adult necessary to sustain life. We need to wake up and begin providing better nutrition for our CHILDREN’S HEARTS to reduce the chances of heart disease as they grow up. As adults our choice to exist on a diet that causes malnutrition needs to be understood as a form of masochism. Starving our bodies of essential nutrients promulgates a slow degenerative process that leads to many health complications resulting in the loss of life. We have the right to do this to our own lives if we choose; we don’t have a right to impose this horrific outcome onto our children.
The purpose of this article was to create a realistic peek into the development of a CHILD’S HEART, THE ROLE NUTRITION PLAYS and the direction our children’s health is headed. The beauty of this dilemma resides in the fact that each of us has the ability to address it and FIX IT. Each day provides an opportunity for a new beginning. The mistakes of our past are behind us; our future is determined by the actions we start today. What will it take to help each of us overcome our current obstacles to provide a better healthier future for our children? Do you think you can find it in your
to change for them?