February is National Heart Health Month! Staggeringly, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Therefore, helping teach children the importance of maintaining good heart health in their childhood and beyond so they can enjoy a good quality of life is of the utmost importance. It has been proven that meeting personal health goals is most successful with the support of others, so being equipped with information about heart disease in educating children is extremely beneficial.
What is heart disease?
Each year, more than 610,000 people die of heart disease in America. Heart disease is a term used for a wide range of medical conditions that impact the heart, which include congenital heart defects as well as coronary artery disease. Certain lifestyle choices and behaviors put people at a greater risk of developing heart disease, some of which include unhealthy diet, stress, physical inactivity, and tobacco use. Those who are obese, have diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure are also at a greater risk. Additionally, certain genetic conditions can increase risk of heart disease despite age and diet.
Fortunately, many kinds of heart disease can be prevented or treated entirely, and well-managed through healthy lifestyle choices. National Heart Month is a prime opportunity to teach your kids about heart-healthy habits they can implement for the rest of their lives.
Developing and Encouraging Healthy Habits
One of the biggest impacts we can make in the life of a child is educating them on how to develop heart-healthy habits. Having an age-appropriate conversation about the dangers of smoking, especially amidst the popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping, is crucial.
Additionally, introduce your child to as many healthy and fresh whole foods as possible. Limit the consumption of processed food, eat family dinners, and shop and cook with your children. With ChildWatch, it’s also super easy to keep track of meal planning with the Meal Nutrition Planning feature as part of the Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
Moreover, per the American Heart Association, kids age 6 to 17 should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to physical activity everyday. Enroll your child in a sport, physical fitness class, or create an activity as a family that gets the heart rate up. It doesn’t have to be structured; your child just has to enjoy it.
Lastly, teaching your child how to effectively manage stress is equally as important as any of the above. Ensure their schedule isn’t too packed and has free time. Additionally, it’s helpful to equip your child with mindfulness practices and healthy coping mechanisms when stressful situations to arise.
Celebrating Heart Health Month
Keep in mind, you are the role model for healthy living in your child’s life. In addition to the formation of healthy habits, be sure to schedule regular wellness exams for your child to confirm good heart health.
And most importantly, remember all your efforts to help your child lead a healthy lifestyle is done from a place of love and a genuine desire to see them live the fullest expression of life possible.