When it comes to raising heart-healthy kids, she says there are a few things parents should know:
1. Most children are born with healthy hearts
That means that your role as a parent is to look to the future and reduce your child’s risk of developing heart disease as an adult by helping them establish healthy habits when they are young.
2. A heart-healthy lifestyle incorporates both activity and nutrition
A heart-healthy lifestyle includes regular activity and a nutritious diet. Doctors suggest that you and your family work together to create long-lasting habits.
The American Heart Association recommends that everyone is active for at least one hour per day, which can be split into two 30-minute periods or four 15-minute periods. “Find a sport or physical activity that everyone enjoys, and take part in it together,” Dr. Kamra says, noting that riding bikes, swimming or playing in a park are likely to keep the whole family happy.
Along with physical activity, it’s also important to follow a heart-healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and healthy grains. “Parents can set the best example for their kids by only bringing foods into the home that are healthy and nutritious,” Dr. Kamra says.
3. You should talk to your child’s pediatrician about your family history
An annual physical or wellness visit is the perfect time to discuss any risk factors in your family for heart disease with your child’s pediatrician. You should let your child’s pediatrician know if anyone in your family has a serious heart condition, and update her or him if a family member is diagnosed with a heart condition in the future.
Your child’s blood pressure is checked at his or her annual well visit. Your pediatrician will work with you to determine if any additional screening for heart disease is necessary during the course of your child’s care.
4. Remember to model heart-healthy behavior
“Kids learn by watching their parents and other family members,” says Dr. Kamra, “which is why it is so important to model healthy behavior when your children are young.”
According to the American Heart Association, parents should:
•Avoid smoking and using tobacco products. •Be physically active every day. •Eat a heart-healthy diet. •Maintain a healthy weight. •Maintain normal blood pressure. •Maintain healthy levels of total cholesterol. •Keep a healthy, balanced blood sugar level.
Dr. Sheena Kamra is a board-certified pediatrician at UCLA Health Torrance Pediatrics practice, 23550 Hawthorne Boulevard, Suite 180. Call (310) 373-4303 to schedule an appointment.