Heart Health for Children

Heart Health for ChildrenHeart health is relevant for people of all ages. Although heart disease is most common in people middle aged and older, the habits that contribute to it begin much younger, often in childhood. February is Heart Health Month so we’re sharing ways to support heart health for children to help reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions for the next generation.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Forming heart healthy habits should begin in infancy for your child’s best chance at staying healthy and avoiding this nasty disease. You’re off to a great start by breastfeeding. Not only does breast milk defend against several of the most common risk factors for heart disease including obesity and diabetes, it also gives your baby the best nutritional start to a lifetime full of wholesome and smart nourishment. Breastfeeding sets the stage for great eating habits in the future. Way to go, moms, for starting your babies on the best path to health!

Continuing to focus on good nutrition is important from the time you begin solids until your kids leave the nest. Teaching the components of a balanced diet, learning how food affects your body, serving healthy meals and snacks, preparing food and eating together as a family, and being a role model for healthy eating are all vital to your child’s development of healthy eating habits. Additionally, avoid excessive fats, sugars and salt in your food and limit your consumption of alcohol. All of these contribute to heart disease.

Physical activity is another essential aspect of heart health for children. Starting in infancy, your baby’s muscles and brain are trained for movement. As your children grow into toddlers, preschoolers and beyond, they need at least an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise a day. Of course the best way to incorporate physical activity is through play such as playgrounds, sports, classes and other fun games. Showing your kids the joys of an active life will encourage them to get moving and stay moving for years to come.

Both diet and exercise help prevent obesity, a crucial factor in reducing risk of heart disease (and many other diseases for that matter). Regular yearly check-ups can help keep track of your child’s weight and BMI as well as check other important metrics such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. You should also discuss your family’s heart history with your pediatrician to ensure you are keeping an eye on any potential risk factors specific to your child.

Hearth health for children can help prevent cardiovascular complications in the future. Your children are only in your care for a short time during their youth. Support their best health through a balanced diet, physical activity and staying on top of their heart health.

Sources: American Heart Association, CardioSmart and Everyday Health