Heart Health Habits for the Whole Family

Adult and Child Holding Heart

February is American Heart Month, so there’s no better time to think about the heart health of those you love. If you’ve never thought about the heart health of your children, it’s time to consider what you can do to protect them from heart disease.

With childhood obesity numbers rising, more and more children are at an increased risk of developing heart disease. High-blood pressure and diabetes, for example, put people of all ages at risk for heart disease. It’s not strictly an adult problem. If you currently have children or plan to have them someday, consider incorporating heart-healthy habits into your family routine at an early age.

Protecting Your Family from Heart Disease

Keeping your family healthy can be a large undertaking, but it’s important to start thinking about heart health early. Here are some steps you can take when planning for your family’s health this year:

  • Early education: It’s never too early to introduce your children to the concept of heart health and start habits that will keep them healthy throughout their lives. When introducing foods to your children, include many nutritious options like fruit and vegetables. Toddlers often have to try food several times before they like it, so don’t give up if they don’t acclimate immediately. Introducing and explaining healthy choices often and early is important because heart-healthy choices can feel like punishment to children if they’re accustomed to foods that are high in saturated fat and added sugar.
  • Be a role model: You are the biggest influence in your child’s life. If you’re not making heart-healthy choices, they won’t want to either. Leading by example keeps both you and your kids healthy. Let them see you making smart meal choices, exercising, and abstaining from things that might put you at risk for heart disease, like drug and alcohol abuse. Take the opportunity to make healthy choices a family activity – plan, cook, and eat healthy meals together, take family walks or bike rides, and discuss why it’s important to lead a healthy lifestyle.
  • Exercise regularly: Most Americans do not get the thirty to sixty minutes a day of aerobic exercise recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services. While the gym may not be a viable option for you and kids, you can make exercise a fun family activity. Play a game of tag. Have a dance party. Play an intense game of follow the leader! Don’t be afraid to just say no to the television and/or computer. Limiting screen time may be a necessary part of getting enough exercise. 
  • Eat healthy: Your diet should consist mostly of fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources, and whole grain carbohydrates. The healthiest thing you can do for your family’s heart health is to avoid foods with high amounts of sodium, added sugar, and saturated fats. Try to limit the amount of fast food your family consumes and focus on planning, creating, and eating healthy dishes together.
  • Avoid tobacco products: Smoking damages blood vessels and can cause heart disease. Even some vaping products have nicotine that can damage your body and cause your blood pressure to rise. Smoking is detrimental to your health, but it also puts your children as risk. Exposing your children to secondhand smoke or vape smoke raises their chances of developing heart disease. Quitting smoking sets a good example for your children. If you currently smoke, start exploring resources that will help you quit.
  • Know your family history: Your family medical history provides a pretty good picture of your potential health risks. Sharing details of your own medical history and your family’s history with the pediatrician can help protect your children in the future. Armed with this knowledge, they will know when to screen your child for potential health threats. Sharing your family history with your doctor while you’re pregnant also increases your chance of discovering and combatting congenital heart defects early.
  • Visit the doctor: Regularly taking your child to his or her pediatrician is a vital part of ensuring their health for years to come. Make sure you schedule suggested appointments and stay on track with recommended vaccinations. Regular visits with your family doctor or pediatrician can ensure proper growth and development of your child.

For more information about heart health for you or your children, contact your area Capital Women’s Care team. Our staff can talk to you and your family about heart disease prevention, screening, and treatment.

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The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.

 

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