Taking your Family’s Health to Heart

Two Young Girls Eating Strawberries

Getting your family into healthier habits can be tricky, especially considering all of the other priorities that compete for their attention. New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics may help to point you in the right direction.

Healthy lifetime habits are easiest to start in childhood. Cardiovascular (heart) disease is the nation’s number one killer, so there’s no time like the present to start making some heart-healthy changes for you and your family.

A recent American Academy of Pediatrics report suggests parents should care for their family’s heart health with these steps:

  • Know your family history of heart disease and let your child’s doctor know of any relatives with heart-related conditions.
  • Don’t smoke, and try to keep your kids away from people who do. Do all you can to prevent your kids from starting to smoke as they near their teens. (If you currently smoke, talk to your doctor about a smoking cessation program.)
  • “Baby fat” can turn into adult fat. Learn your child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) from their doctor.  If BMI is over the 85th percentile, talk with your child’s doctor about the best ways to manage their weight.
  • Limit time in front of the TV and get your family moving for an hour a day.
  • Promote healthy eating habits in your children, by trying some or all of the following strategies:
    • Breastfeed for at least the first 6 months
    • Keep portion sizes reasonable
    • Serve whole grains, beans, and lots of fruits and vegetables
    • No sugar-sweetened beverages—including juice.  Low-fat unsweetened milk and water are the way to go.
    • Try to keep fat and cholesterol to a minimum (which means limiting fast food)

Make sure your child’s blood pressure is taken at every checkup from age 3 on, and talk to your doctor about when is the best time to do a blood test to check your child’s cholesterol level.

Does your family already do some of these things? Are there new strategies you’ll try? Share below!

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