Healthy Parent, Healthy Child

Heart health factors like obesity and screen time may pass from parent to child

(RxWiki News) Kids learn all sorts of things from their parents including healthy and unhealthy habits, suggest the authors of a new study.

This study of children and parents in Japan found that risk factors for heart troubles, like obesity and time spent in front of television or computer screen, could be passed down to future generations.

Masao Yoshinaga, MD, PhD, of the Kagoshima Medical Center in Japan, and colleagues studied 1,114 children and their parents from seven areas of Japan. The children were all between the ages of 6 and 12 years old.

The children underwent a medical examination, and their parents answered a survey about lifestyle factors. The participants also wore pedometers — devices that track the number of steps users take — for one week.

After analyzing the data, Dr. Yoshinaga and team found a connection between the the parents' and children's heart health risk factors. In particular, children whose parents had higher levels of screen time — time spent sitting still in front of a TV or computer — had higher levels of screen time themselves. Too much time spent sitting still is thought to increase the risk for heart disease.

"Screen time of children is significantly associated with parental screen time," Dr. Yoshinaga said in a press release. "To reduce screen time in children, parents should reduce their screen time."

In addition, boys whose fathers were obese had a higher risk of obesity. Girls had a higher risk of obesity if either parent was obese.

These researchers also found that those who walked more were more likely to sleep more and spend less time in front of a screen.

The study was presented Nov. 19 at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2014 conference in Chicago. Studies presented at conferences are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 17, 2014