Atrial fibrillation Healthy Living inflammation

When kids compete…

About a year ago I wrote about the inflammation of business travel. My first-hand experience helped me understand why so many middle-aged jet-setters turn up with heart rhythm problems. Basically, I found out that life on the road serves up stress.

Yesterday, I met business travel’s first cousin: taking your child to an over-scheduled all-day state championship.


For our family, it was an academic competition, but my argument would hold true for travel-soccer tournaments, swim meets or even brownie conventions. You get the picture. You’ve seen the picture: idle parents watching children play.

Yesterday, our day started too early for even a bike racer to sneak in a work-out. On the way, we stopped at McDonalds for breakfast. No, we hadn’t cut up fresh fruit the previous morning. When we reached the event, the kids sprung into action and the parents sat. Before long, it was lunch time. And no again, we hadn’t prepared low-fat sandwiches on whole-grain breads the night before. After eating lunch we sat some more–all afternoon to be exact. This unhealth persisted into the evening hours. We capped our late night ride home with dinner at a Waffle House, one of the only restaurants still open after nine o’oclock on a Sunday night. (We called Whole Foods; they wouldn’t stay open for us. Yes, of course, I told them I was a heart doctor with a blog.)

Don’t get me wrong, my wife Staci, and I love our kids. We are proud when they attend prestigious tournaments. But if we traveled on a regular basis, like many “competitive families” do, there is little doubt that staying healthy would require much more serious planning and motivation.

Based on what I saw yesterday, and what can be seen on the sports fields across America, most families are not cutting up fruit and making healthy sandwiches the night before. They are doing as we did yeaterday: eating lousy food and standling idle all weekend.

Like I learned from my occasional exposure to business travel, this weekend I saw how easy inflammation can transform a previously athletic adult into an AF patient.

It’s true that all parents love to see their children beam with the self-esteem that achievement brings. As a parent, I know this warm feeling well. Thank goodness.

But as a doctor charged with treating mostly middle-aged patients, I can attest that too many parents are sacrificing their own health for the triumphs of their children.

Is it too much to ask for both kids and parents to be healthy?


6 replies on “When kids compete…”

Great post. This is something that I still struggle with. We are working together to make it work for everyone in the family, but if someone’s health has to be ‘sacrificed’ it is, more often than not, mine. Here is a question, why can we not convince the food vendors at events to provide healthier options?

Thanks J,

In my non-Ivy-League mind, vendors at kids events follow the rules of Econ 101: demand and supply. People demand easy, high calorie comfort foods. Even at bike races, and running races, the lines outside the PapaJohns semi-truck-turned-pizzeria far exceeds those leading to the carts selling vegan hot dogs and sprouts.

I think health is going to become harder to come by. People are going to have to plan, and be motivated. Healthy choices will never be the default at these events.

Some of my friends accomplish this balance, but they are in the minority.


okey dokey…all three of my kids were highly involved in the AFJROTC unit of their school. Twelve years of involvement taught me many lessons and the most important was the value of the well stocked cooler. Everyone appreciates it. If you offer to “bring lunch” for the group, or even if you convince parents to contribute to a communal meal that you all bring, you all save money. And the quality of the meal goes up. A plus while the kids are competeing. And you can eat fairly healthfully at Waffle House. Ask for tomatoes instead of hashbrowns. Don’t eat the bread choices, they are crap, and choose a dinner item that serves a salad, ignore the crackers. Or reserach restaurants online that serve a better menu if you will be leaving at a better dinner time. Keep in mind they need to be buffet types that won’t mind a bus load of kids stopping in, that may offer some healthy offerings. I always looked for Ryans or Golden Buffet’s, but I even found a Chinese Buffet that served brown rice options. My youngest is in college now, but the commander of the unit still contacts me for help. Really, no one wants to eat the crap that is served, but no one wants to do anything about it either.


Thanks for saying. All is great advice. Wise food choices can even render McDonalds reasonable.

Golden Coral though, greets it’s customers with the desert bar, and a sign that says, “Eat Desert First.” Those that can resist are few in numbers.

Thanks for maintaining a very interesting site. I have been on a long journey to cure AFIB having suffered with the disease for almost 20 years. I just had my third ablation after unfortunately having tried every rate/heart controlling medicine out there. Nothing worked, which is why I ventured down the path of another ablation. I am now four weeks post procedure and, I must say, I think your recommendations for moderate exercise, rest, and proper diet should be the baseline for anybody dealing with this disease. I am also a frequent traveler and airport related stress is definitely a trigger. There is nothing quite as memorable as going into a full blown case of AFIB simply because of the stress associated with making my way through airport security and to the gate. My two daughters are older now, but we also did the soccer thing. The stress factor was probably worse. The travel team was way over the top…and so were some of the parents.

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