When we think about Heart disease, it’s typically something we fear as adults for ourselves, but it has increasingly become a fear for some of us as parents. Children are more at risk of heart disease now more than ever.
A recently written article titled “Your Guide to a Healthy Heart,” in Reader’s Digest, said that new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) request that children who are obese or who have other risk factors such as a troublesome family history should get a cholesterol test by age ten — and even urge doctors to consider statins for those most at risk if nothing else works. The recommendations stirred controversy, but the AAP insists it’s not pushing pills for millions of kids.
“We simply wanted to draw attention to the rise in juvenile obesity,” says Frank Greer, MD, who helped write the guidelines, “and to alert parents that poor health habits could be setting up their kids for early heart attacks or strokes.” Lifestyle modifications are the best strategy, says Dr. Greer, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. Statins should be considered only for kids with the worst combination of risk factors.
But parents need to make sure their kids eat right and stay active even if they’re not overweight.
By following these ten simple tips you can help your children develop healthy eating habits. (Taken from AmericanHeart.org.)
1. Be a positive role model. If you’re practicing healthy habits, it’s a lot easier to convince children to do the same.
2. Get the whole family active. Plan times for everyone to get moving together. Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming, garden or just play hide-and-seek outside. Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the time together.
3. Limit TV, video game, and computer time. These habits lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking, which increase risks for obesity and cardiovascular disease.
4. Encourage physical activities that children really enjoy. Let children experiment with different activities until each finds something that he or she really loves doing. They’ll stick with it longer if they love it.
5. Be supportive. Focus on the positive instead of the negative. Everyone likes to be praised for a job well done. Celebrate successes and help children and teens develop a good self-image.
6. Set specific goals and limits, such as one hour of physical activity a day or two desserts per week other than fruit. When goals are too abstract or limits too restrictive, the chance for success decreases.
7. Don’t reward children with food. Candy and snacks as a reward encourage bad habits. Find other ways to celebrate good behavior.
8. Make dinnertime a family time. When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much. Get the kids involved in cooking and planning meals. Everyone develops good eating habits together and the quality time with the family will be an added bonus.
9. Make a game of reading food labels. The whole family will learn what’s good for their health and be more conscious of what they eat. It’s a habit that helps change behavior for a lifetime.
10. Stay involved. Be an advocate for healthier children. Insist on good food choices at school. Make sure your children’s healthcare providers are monitoring cardiovascular indicators like BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol. Contact public officials on matters of the heart. Make your voice heard.