By Cara Yochai, PT, DPT
“Be happy, healthy, and let all that love flow through your heart.”-Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Did you know that February is American Heart Month? It is never too early to increase awareness about cardiovascular disease. In fact, heart health can start in childhood. The best fight against any disease is prevention. Starting to work towards a healthy heart from a young age will facilitate healthy practices into adulthood. Anyone can take steps to improve heart health. However, if you know that heart disease runs in your family, it is even more important to take preventative measures.
High blood pressure
The American Heart Association published a statistical fact sheet in 2013, which reveals some surprising statistics about youth and cardiovascular disease.
“Approximately 7.8% of adolescents 12 to 19 years of age have total cholesterol levels ≥200 mg/dL”
“Nationwide, 13.8% of adolescents were inactive during the previous 7 days, indicated by their response that they did not participate in ≥60 minutes of any kind of physical activity”
“23.9 million children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese”
Increase intake of vegetables, healthy grains, and lean protein
Decrease intake of processed foods and sugars
Consult with your child’s pediatrician or a registered dietician who may be able to work with you and your child’s individualized needs to promote a heart healthy diet
With the increase in use of electronics and technology, it is more important than ever to encourage movement for your child
The American Heart Association offers specific recommendations for physical activity in children
Promote opportunities to move and be physically active throughout the day for children ages 3-5 years old
At least 60 min/day of moderate to vigorous activity, mostly aerobic, for ages 6-17 years old
Include vigorous intensity activity 3 days/week
Include muscle and bone-strengthening, also known as weight bearing activities, 3 days/week
Most activities include a combination of an aerobic and weight bearing component. Try incorporating some of these activities to increase your child’s daily movement!
Weight Bearing activities:
Team sports: basketball, soccer, baseball