Doctors and nutritionists have worked hard to raise awareness about how to help children, young and old, build strong and healthy hearts. Make 2020 the year you finally stop putting it off and finally make it a priority.

Below are a few tips to help you get started:

01 Get regular checkups and sports physicals–

No parent wants to lose their child to undetected cardiovascular disease. There are ways to prevent having to suffer that devastation. First, be on the lookout for common red flags like chest pain, shortness of breath, elevated blood pressure, unexplained fainting, and a family history of heart disease. It’s imperative that you work together with your child’s physician. Tell them about any concerns you might have. It could save your child’s life.

02 Promote a heart-healthy diet –

Just like adults, children can succumb to bad eating habits. When they don’t eat healthy foods in the recommended portion size, they could potentially develop elevated cholesterol levels. Elevated levels are one of the many known risk factors for heart disease. What parents can do is learn how to read nutrition labels on the back of packages.

Know what your children are eating and drinking. Learn the difference between LDL, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or bad cholesterol, and HDL, high-density lipoprotein, what doctors and nutritionists refer to as the good (better for you) cholesterol. Know too that only animal products like eggs, dairy, and meat contain cholesterol. Keep that in mind when you’re buying or preparing meals.

Watch the saturated fats. Even better, substitute unsaturated for saturated fats. They too are found in meats and dairy products. can increase LDL levels, so make sure you limit your child’s intake of them. – Limit processed foods. May taste good, but they’re horrible for you. Always remember to have your child eat fiber-rich foods. They help to flush out cholesterol. Kids love fiber-rich foods like oats.

03 Encourage exercise –

Make it a family affair. Go outside and play a game of basketball, go for a run or walk around the neighborhood, try trail hiking, play tag with the younger kids. It doesn’t matter what you do if your moving and getting your heart rate up. – If you’re stuck indoors this winter, there are plenty of indoor activities to choose from.

Grab a jump rope or find an exercise video online and do it together, turn some music on and dance until you can’t dance anymore, try yoga or barre exercises. Anything that gets your kids moving is great for everyone.

Plan your family workouts just like you would any activity. Studies show that writing anything down in a schedule/ diary/planner is one way to ensure you get the task done, so start planning. – Seek out opportunities. If your neighborhood rec center is hosting a stair climbing event for charity, join it. Maybe there’s a 5k fundraiser event coming up.

Lace up your shoes and get the family involved. Look for other opportunities like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther away from the mall, or walking the kids to school. Every little bit counts.

04 Have important conversations –

We should all know by now smoking is bad for you, but don’t assume your preteens and teens know that. Tell them what smoking does to the body, especially the heart, and ask and answer questions. Learn where your child is on the matter. Encourage them to be open and honest about their feelings and share facts with them. Lead by example.

05 Don’t forget to let your kids know how much you love and appreciate them –

Daily reminders give your child a sense of security and lets them know that your heart does matter. With Valentine’s Day coming up, now would be a good time to tell them what’s in your heart and encourage them to be the best they can be and to make conscious decisions to make decisions that are heart-healthy.

By Stella Nash

Website | + posts