Local family commits to heart healthy lifestyle.


by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 Healthlink

Bio | Email


Posted on January 24, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 24 at 3:10 PM

The three Rodriguez brothers, 13 year old Alfredo, and 11 year old twins Anthony and Mark, named the ingredients as they created their own smoothies.

"Strawberries, banana, papaya and mango," they called as the blender whirred the concoction, both tasty and healthy.

In this household everyone helps out with healthy meals. 

"This is very economical, quick and easy. This is lentil stew," said the boys' mother Rosa Rodriguez. She was showing off a typical dinner entree.

Rosa Rodriguez must work to keep meals within a realistic budget though. She's found it's more expensive to eat healthy.  But she saw the need early on, when her oldest son Alfredo started gaining weight as a toddler. Changing the family diet was a struggle at first.

"I was trying to do it alone. Now it's my husband, my three children, and I talked to my mom about it, my dad, my three sisters," Rodriguez said.

She even went through a Seattle Children's Research Institute study with Alfredo. The study, called the FOCUS PROJECT emphasized nutrition and exercise. Her son lost 15 pounds, and feels good.

"I'm able to do basketball without getting tired," Alfredo explained.

The Rodriguez family is determined to give their sons  a different life than the one Rosa saw as a child.

"It was so common for us to go to the hospital and see our uncles and aunts in the hospital all the time because of health issues, whether it be heart problems, diabetes, kidneys," she recalled.

Seattle children's Pediatrician Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson tackled the issue of children's heart health in one of her recent Seattle Mama Doc blogs. said it will take a cultural shift to prevent heart disease, the clogging of arteries that starts in childhood. But it's worth the effort.

"If you look at a fifteen year old who has a little bit of atherosclerosis and other risk factors like high blood pressure and being overweight, what you can do at that point, versus what you can do with a forty year old who already has atherosclerosis is very different," Dr. Swanson explained.

New guidelines, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute part of the National Institutes of Health, and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics call for changes. The guidelines, recently published in the journal "Pediatrics", include cholesterol screenings for children between ages nine and eleven.

Dr. Swanson said if your family has a history of heart trouble before age 55, let your pediatrician know, because your child may need closer monitoring.

"If they've got a parent, aunt, uncle, or grandparent who's had an early heart attack, early cardiovascular disease, or an early stroke, we want to screen them early for cholesterol," said Dr. Swanson.

Since heart health begins at birth experts also say babies under a year should be breast-fed. Limit fat to 30 percent of a child's calories, and cut down on salt. Teens and parents should know that exposure to tobacco smoke is a major contributor to heart disease.

The changes are not easy. Rosa Rodriguez said there have been ups and downs in their new lifestyle. But they're moving toward a healthier life.  

"I'm very very proud of all my boys because they've done a wonderful job," she smiled.