ATLANTA - The health habits kids form early on in childhood can shape who they become, and what they do, as adults.
Yet a recent study by the American Heart Association shows many U-S children are coming up short when it comes to their heart health.
One big challenge? Getting enough exercise.
The Heart Association recommends a kids get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day -- but only half of school age children and less than 10 percent of older teens get enough exercise.
And it could be just one habit undermining their heart-healthy as adults.
"We often don't think about heart health until something bad happens,” says pediatric cardiologist Dr. Dennis Kim of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
Kim says when we do think about things like heart attacks and stroke, we don’t think about youngsters.
“We think about other adults we know, other family members we know, other relatives,” he says. “We don't think about our kids."
But Dr. Kim says habits kids are learning now may be putting their hearts at risk.
The CDC says more than a third of US children are now either overweight or obese, and many already have at least one risk factor for heart disease, like high cholesterol, high blood pressure or pre-diabetes.
A major problem? The way children eat.
"I think that as a parent, there are many challenges,” says Dr. Kim.
The Heart Association says 91 percent of US kids don't eat a heart-healthy diet, and most of what they eat -- comes from high-calories, low-nutrition foods and simple carbohydrates like sugary drinks and desserts.
But Dr. Kim says you can teach your child to make better choices, by serving primarily heart-healthy foods in your home, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish.
"Really to have them understand what a healthy diet is,” he says. “To prioritize that, as individuals and as families."