Heart disease is far from just an adult problem, so we asked GALTime.com resident RN Tamara Walker for her advice on how to keep kids heart healthy:
More kids than ever before are struggling with health problems that were once only seen in adults, including heart disease, usually due to a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity. The number of children who are overweight or obese has increased dramatically in the past few years. It has been reported that one in three children qualify as obese, and more are overweight, according to recent studies. Obesity in children can cause serious health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease and it increases their future risk of heart attacks. Even children who are not overweight can have health issues due to an unhealthy diet and not enough exercise. Studies have shown that plaque build-up in the blood vessels can start as early as the toddler years. Whether your child is overweight or not, it is critical to take steps now to protect your child's heart health and overall health. There are several ways to keep your kids heart healthy now and as he or she grows into adulthood.
Eating a breakfast packed with nutrients from whole grains, fruits, and some protein will help decrease over-eating throughout the rest of the day. If your kid doesn't like traditional breakfast foods, try alternatives. Many kids love fruit and yogurt smoothies for breakfast. One of my favorite breakfasts as a teenager was a peanut butter sandwich, a banana, and a glass of milk.
(For more on how to pick a healthy cereal, click here.)
Smart Food Choices
Help your kids to choose snacks wisely by offering healthy choices. Cutting back on fast foods may help to decrease the amount of fat and salt consumed. Don't go overboard and forbid junk food altogether or your kid may end up wanting it even more. And remember, your eating habits and choices will have a big impact on what your child chooses to eat. Make it a family goal to eat healthy, nutritious meals and snacks.
Family Fun Exercise
Kids today get less exercise from playing outside or participating in sports than previous generations. Children are strongly influenced by their parents' example, so it is up to parents to take the lead on increasing healthy activities. Fun ways to do this include going on bike rides together, walking together, joining a family friendly fitness center, swim laps together, or dance to upbeat music. Whatever you can do to get your child moving for at least 30 minutes three times a week will help your child's heart and health. If your child already has health problems, be sure to check with a doctor before beginning an exercise program.
(For tips on how to keep your kids active in winter, click here.)
Regular Wellness Check-ups
One of the most important steps you can take for your child's health is to take her for regular wellness check-ups. Follow the schedule recommended by your child's physician, but children past the toddler stage are usually seen for annual physical exams. If you have concerns about your kid's health, your family doctor or pediatrician can put your mind at ease or let you know if there is a medical issue that needs to be addressed.
February is American Heart Month. If you would like to learn more about taking care of your kid's heart and your own, the American Heart Association has great resources, articles, and information on their website here.
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