The choices we make to improve our children’s heart health are beneficial to the entire family. So be a good role model. Send a message to your kids that good health is important to your family by helping them develop heart-healthy habits – today – to last a lifetime. Their heart will be happy, and so will yours.
Children exposed to secondhand smoke have a 25-30% greater risk of heart disease than children who aren’t. Parents who smoke are more likely to have children who smoke. This not only puts them at increased risk for heart disease, but also lung cancer, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. So again, don’t smoke.
Include children in healthy food choices
Invite your kids into the kitchen and get them involved in planning and preparing healthy meals. Take them grocery shopping and get them in the habit of reading nutrition labels. Make family outings to the local farmers’ market part of your routine. Or, plant a garden and let your kids grow, nurture and handpick the foods that end up on their plate.
Put a cap on screen time
Television, smart-phones, video and computer games encourage unnecessary snacking and a sedentary lifestyle – habits which can lead to obesity and heart disease. Limit screen time to two hours a day. To combat the inevitable “I’m bored” comment, look into after-school activities and clubs or encourage your child to pursue a new hobby.
Avoid junk food and soda
Foods that combine empty calories with high levels of salt, sugar, saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for heart health. Banning certain foods is never a good idea. Temptations can be overwhelming and can lead to over-indulgence, feelings of guilt and ultimately an unhealthy relationship with food. But limit these foods. Make them the exception, not the norm.
A plant-based diet is typically high in fiber and low in fat – great for reducing the risk of heart disease, hypertension, obesity and more. So pile those plates with fruits and veggies! Consider introducing vegetarian meals into your diet once a week.
Get active for at least 30 minutes a day
Let your children experiment with different activities until they find one they like. Swimming, soccer, dance, gymnastics, yoga – kids are more likely to stick with an activity if it is something they enjoy. Schedule time for the whole family to get active – take walks, ride bikes or toss around the Frisbee – everyone in the family will benefit from exercising together.
Take care of yourself
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Americans and can strike without warning, taking people away from those they love. The good news is that heart disease can often be prevented. Providence is here to help.