The month of February brings to mind sweet treats, roses, the color red, and hearts. Those paper hearts are meant to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but February is also National Heart Month! National Heart Month is a month-long celebration in the United States that is observed every February. The holiday was established to urge Americans to recognize the nationwide problem of heart and blood vessel diseases and to support programs that help solve the problem.
Your heart is a muscle about the size of your fist and it pumps blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body to keep you alive. It’s incredibly important to keep the heart-healthy, but each year 1 in 4 Americans die of heart disease. The age that both men and women are being diagnosed with heart disease is increasingly younger.
As parents, it’s critical that we educate our children and encourage activities that ensure heart health. The good news is that heart disease is largely preventable. Although kids and teens typically don’t show the symptoms of heart disease at such a young age, the buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) in the arteries can start in childhood and issues into adulthood.
Prevention is Key
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
There is a lot you can do to help your kids grow up with good habits to maintain a healthy heart.
Talk to your kids about your own risk factors and family history.
- Risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Prediabetes or diabetes
- Family history of early heart disease
- Tobacco use
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Lack of physical activity
Set your child up for success and avoid heart disease as an adult by instilling good habits such as:
- Avoiding tobacco—teen smoking has seen a slight increase and tobacco use is a known factor in heart disease.
- Maintaining a healthy weight through a healthy diet and exercise
- Daily exercise—encourage your children to play outside at least once a day. The USDA recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity for kids most days of the week. Parents should also limit sedentary activities. You will likely see some resistance when implementing a new heart-healthy routine. One of the best ways to get your kids on board is to set a good example yourself by making exercise part of your life.
- Eating a balanced diet—provide a diet high in fruits and vegetables and limit saturated fats and foods high in cholesterol.
- Checking in with your pediatrician—stay ahead of the curve and check-in to make sure your kids are in good health.