February is American Heart Month. In celebration, we typically hear messages about how adults can lower their risk for heart disease. But, research shows cardiovascular disease can begin in childhood.
So, let’s talk about heart-healthy habits kids can develop now to hopefully avoid heart disease as they age. Kids are more likely to stick to a heart-healthy lifestyle if they grow up with one.
Your child’s heart is a muscle that needs exercise to stay healthy. Kids should get at least 1 hour of exercise every day to help reduce stress, keep a healthy blood pressure, and strengthen their bones and muscles.
Exercise doesn’t have to be working out at a gym. There are many activities you can do with your kids, such as walking, hiking, skating, swimming, shooting baskets or even active video games and streaming fitness programs, for example.
Kids should eat fruits and vegetables at every meal. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate tells us that half of our child’s food intake at every meal should be fruits and vegetables to get the necessary vitamins and minerals.
The best way to start getting more fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet is to buy them instead of processed foods. Also, make them easily accessible. Keep cut-up veggies on hand to add to smoothies or other dishes you’re making.
Drink well, too
Water is a great choice to keep a healthy heart because it has no calories or artificial ingredients. Because two-thirds of our body is made up of water, it’s important kids drink 8 glasses every day to cleanse and purify their bodies.
Low-fat milk is also a healthy option. The goal is to cut out sugary drinks, such as juice, soda, energy and sports drinks.
A good night’s sleep is crucial because it gives kids the rest to focus at school, clarity to choose healthy foods and energy for daily exercise. Most kids need at least 10-11 hours of sleep at night.
A good habit is to fall asleep and wake up at a similar time every day. Also, setting up your child’s room as a quiet, dark place helps them fall asleep and stay asleep until morning.
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