Starting Young: 5 Heart-healthy Lifestyle Tips For Kids

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Newswise ST. LOUIS It’s never too early for you to start taking care of your heart.

Studies show children who have good heart health practices are at lower your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases later in life. The first step, says Susan Haynes, M.D., assistant professor in the division of cardiology at Saint Louis University, is to discuss your family history of any heart-related diseases with your doctor before your child is born.

Heart health needs to start early. Its good to be proactive about knowing your family risks, making healthy choices, maintaining a good weight, lowering cholesterol and controlling blood pressure, which will keep your heart healthy, says Haynes. Have a conversation about the possible risk factors with your pediatrician or even obstetrician before the child is born.

To mark February as the heart health month, Haynes is taking this opportunity to suggest building these five heart-healthy lifestyle practices as a child or adolescent to keep your heart healthy forever.

Limit screen timeIn this digital age, its almost instinctive to hand over that tablet or smartphone to your child when youre busy working or cooking in the kitchen. Haynes says kids younger than 2 should not get into the habit of watching TV or playing games on phones.

Kids between ages 2-5 should have no more than one to two hours of screen time a day, she says.

Limiting screen time for kids encourages them to get involved in physical activities. Theres no way children can watch TV and be physically active at the same time, says Haynes. If they are not watching TV, they will find a way to entertain themselves.Being physically active at a young age means youre more likely to exercise when you grow older as well.

Say no to smokingKids look up to their parents as role models, and often emulate their behavior patterns. Similarly, if a parent is seen smoking, chances are kids would imitate this unhealthy behavior. Studies say children of smokers are twice as likely to smoke.

If theres smoking in the household, kids will anticipate that its a normal environment and adopt the habits, she says. Its a good idea for parents to quit smoking before the child is born.

The American Lung Association says almost 3,900 children under 18 try their first cigarette every day, and more than 950 of them will become new, regular daily smokers. Not smoking that first cigarette is the best way to keep your heart healthy, she says.

Watch what you eatAn infant’s diet can make a difference developing heart healthy habits. Infants should not be given more than four ounces of 100 percent juice a day with no preservatives or sugar. Similarly, when a child is ready to transition from breast milk to cows milk, its important to note the percentage of fat in the milk that would be suitable for the child. That decision can be made based on the family risk factors and the child’s usual diet.

Like adults, kids are generally encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fiber to maintain a healthy diet. Its important to avoid sweetened drinks and other processed food from an early age.

Parents play an important role in what their kids eat. They have to portray an ideal meal for the kids to develop the habit of choosing a healthy diet, Haynes says. While eating at a fast food restaurant, think about choosing apple slices instead of fries with the happy meal, or yogurt instead of a milkshake.

Whats your BMI?Your childs body mass index (BMI) calculated from a persons weight and height tells you if your child is obese or overweight.

A child may look skinny to the parent, but the actual weight may or may not be in the normal range, Haynes says. Its a good idea to have that number checked out.

Check your cholesterolRecent guidelines from American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cholesterol screening for all children between ages of 9-11, and sooner if your child is obese or has a concerning family history.

If your child is obese and in that age bracket, he or she should regularly be screened for cholesterol levels, Haynes says. Sometimes having a specific number helps families be more aware of health problems and thus be more motivated to take action to improve habits.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious disease


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    • Ann
    • February 6, 2014

    Healthy Lifestyle Information? Give me healthy lifestyle defination, the way to live healthy life and other more

    1. Reply

      Healthy Lifestyles

      About Healthy Lifestyles

      Choosing a healthy lifestyle can help you improve your health and reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

      Healthy lifestyles include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, quitting smoking (or not starting), and minimizing stress. (Note: Specific guidance for maintaining a healthy lifestyle may change over time as new scientific recommendations become available.)

      Learn more about each of the factors that affect your lifestyle by using the links below.

      horizonal rule
      Eat a Healthy Diet

      The Dietary Guidelines for Americans show how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases.

      A heart-healthy diet is one that is:

      * nutritious and well-balanced
      * low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and salt
      * high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

      The Food Guide Pyramid and the Food Label are tools to help consumers make informed food choices in the context of a healthy diet.

      Use the Food Guide Pyramid to help you choose healthy foods each day.
      MyPyramid.gov – Steps to a Healther You

      Use the Food Label Nutrition Facts Panel on the food products you buy for guidance. In general, try to plan your daily food choices so that you eat

      * less than 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
      * at least 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron.

      For more information on eating a healthy diet, see:
      Food Label

      * General Information and How to Use the Food Label
      FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

      * Consumer Nutrition and Health Information
      FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

      * Nutrition
      MedlinePlus Health Information

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      Maintain a Healthy Weight
      Body Mass Index Chart
      View BMI Chart

      Excess body fat leads to health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

      Health professionals use a measurement called body mass index (BMI) to classify an adult’s weight as healthy, overweight, or obese. BMI describes body weight relative to height and is correlated with total body fat content in most adults.

      To find your BMI, use the chart on this page or
      National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s BMI calculator.

      BMI range:

      * 18.5-25 — healthy range
      * 25-30 – overweight
      * 30 or higher — obese

      Having excess abdominal body fat is also a health risk. Men with a waist of more than 40 inches around and women with a waist of 35 inches or more are at risk for health problems.

      More than 60 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While the number of overweight people has been slowly climbing since the 1980s, the number of obese adults has nearly doubled since then.

      Excess weight and physical inactivity account for more than 300,000 premature deaths each year in the United States, second only to deaths related to smoking, says the CDC. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, gallbladder disease and joint pain caused by excess uric acid (gout). Excess weight can also cause interrupted breathing during sleep (sleep apnea) and wearing away of the joints (osteoarthritis).

      To lose weight, you must eat less and move more. Your body needs to burn more calories than you take in.

      For more information on losing weight, see:

      * The Surgeon General’s Call To Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, 2001
      U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

      * Losing Weight: More Than Counting Calories (FDA Consumer Magazine, January-February 2002) http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2002/102_fat.html

      * NHLBI Aim for a Healthy Weight

      * Overweight and Obesity
      CDC Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity

      * Obesity
      MedlinePlus Health Information

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      Exercise Regularly

      Exercise improves heart function, lowers blood pressure and blood cholesterol, helps manage diabetes, and helps control weight.

      The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at NIH recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week.

      Talk to your doctor about what forms of exercise are best for you.

      For more information about exercise and physical fitness, see:

      * Exercise and Physical Fitness
      MedlinePlus Health Information

      * Physical Activity
      CDC Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity

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      Quit or Do Not Start Smoking

      Smoking cigarettes significantly increases your risk of coronary heart disease.

      Facts about smoking and coronary heart disease:

      * Tobacco smoke increases your risk or atherosclerosis.
      * Smokers have more than twice the risk of having a heart attack as non-smokers.
      * Smoking is the biggest risk factor for sudden cardiac death.
      * Smokers who have a heart attack are more likely to die than non-smokers who have a heart attack.

      In the first year that you stop smoking, your risk of coronary heart disease drops sharply. In time, your risk will gradually return to that of someone who has never smoked.

      For information on quitting smoking, see:

      * It’s Quittin’ Time: Smokers Need Not Rely on Willpower Alone
      (FDA Consumer Magazine, November- December 1997).
      * Smoking Cessation
      MedlinePlus Health Information

      horizonal rule
      Minimize Stress

      The link between stress and coronary heart disease is not entirely clear. However, people who have too much stress or who have unhealthy responses to stress may be at greater risk of having coronary heart disease.

      Facts about stress and coronary heart disease:

      * Stress speeds up the heart rate.
      * People with heart disease are more likely to have a heart attack during times of stress.
      * People sometimes respond to stress with unhealthy habits such as smoking or eating salty or high-fat foods.

      For information on stress reduction, see:

      * Stress: How to Cope Better With Life’s Challenges
      American Academy of Family Physicians

      * Stress
      MedlinePlus Health Information

  1. Reply

    Healthy Lifestyle………? I have a cousin whose crazy about the junk food and not so crazy about exercising. How can I tell him the importance of exercising, eating right and getting plenty of sleep?

    1. Reply

      You can take responsibility for your own eating, sleeping, exercising, and lifestyle. The best persuasion is to demonstrate the success of your choices. A direct assault on another human being’s way of living may be successful, but in most cases, it will not.

      If you are respectful, you can gently provide the person with little known facts about his food and lifestyle choices. There is a lot of good science about healthy living. Just start reading books by authors like Neal Barnard, Howard Lyman, and Dean Ornish.

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