Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Although symptoms usually appear later in life, the factors that lead to the illness begin much earlier — even experiences during infancy can contribute to heart disease. Children don’t always understand the risks of heart disease, so it’s up to parents to minimize a child’s chances of getting it. While hereditary factors are impossible to change, there are lifestyle choices that make a difference in heart health for kids. Help your child live a healthy life and do what’s best for their heart.
Get Creative with Activities
An active lifestyle can improve heart health, so it’s important to get your kids moving. The trick is to give kids activities they actually want to participate in, rather than ones that make them feel like they’re doing something just to stay healthy. As children are naturally curious, consider taking them somewhere they’ve never been before like a park, playground, or swimming pool. This will encourage your children to use their imagination, as they stay active and have fun. Don’t be afraid to join in — heart health is just as important for adults as it is for children.
Make Nutrition a Priority
Like any muscle, the heart requires a balanced and healthy diet to function correctly. Unfortunately, children are often picky eaters who don’t enjoy the foods that are best for their health. One way to change unhealthy eating behaviors is to start small — slowly introduce healthy foods into a child’s diet so they don’t feel overwhelmed by a plate full of greens. You could swap whole wheat for white bread, fruit for candy, and carrots for chips. Take it one step at a time and lead by example. After all, if you’re not eating healthy, your children have a real excuse not to consume nutritious foods themselves.
Ensure a Healthy Sleep Schedule
Getting a full night’s sleep doesn’t just make a child feel better in the morning; it can help their heart in the long run. The most important part of a sleep schedule is that your kids stick to it every day of the week. This might not be so difficult on weekdays when school and homework make your child feel tired, but children sometimes want to stay up late on the weekends. Stay firm with bedtimes and eventually your children will know that going to bed at a certain hour is non-negotiable. You might feel bad making them hit the hay early, but remember that you are simply improving their heart health one night at a time. Teens require around 9 hours of sleep every night, and younger children need even more, so be sure they are getting the right amount to stay healthy.
Every kid deserves a healthy heart, so do what you can to keep things pumping smoothly. The steps you take today are sure to have a positive effect later in your child’s life. When you improve a child’s diet, exercise, or sleep schedule, you are giving them the gift of a healthier heart. Even if they don’t understand it today, they will be grateful they grow up. If you’re wondering how to get started improving your child’s heart health, check out our blog post “Benefits of Cooking for Your Kids” to tackle nutrition first. There’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal, so make dinner more delicious and nutritious every day of the week.