Heart Health Begins at Home: Establish healthy habits at an early age

by on August 6th, 2010 at 7:00 am

With the new school year approaching and so many things to manage in order to get children ready, it can become easy to overlook one of the most fundamental aspects of a child’s life: nutrition. During vacation many routines may be neglected, and healthy meals shared with the family may be overlooked. With that in mind, the new school year can be seen as a fresh start and a way of getting the entire family back on a healthy track.

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease has been the number one cause of death in the United States for the past 80 years? Statistics show that every 34 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies from heart disease. That’s more than an astonishing 2,500 deaths in a day.

Sadly, children are now starting to form part of these statistics, with more children than ever diagnosed with heart disease.

Tedious tests such as cholesterol screenings have typically been an unwelcome part of middle age. But recently, and for the first time, doctors with the American Academy of Pediatrics have begun recommending such health measures for a greater number of children as young as two years of age. Under the same new guidelines, cholesterol-lowering drugs would be prescribed to eight-year-olds.

The question is- where do parents draw the line? With obesity rates among children in the first world higher than ever, experts agree that lowering cholesterol is essential to reducing the risk of heart disease. But shouldn’t we try natural and safer methods first?  How about lifestyle changes?

Prevention is key

It is understandably hard to balance family, work, and social obligations while ensuring that everyone gets a balanced diet that includes sufficient fiber, vitamins and minerals. This is especially true during this time of the year when so many things need to be accomplished and there’s so little time. Add to that the stress of traffic, managing hectic schedules, and many parents find themselves running to the nearest fast food restaurant to pick up dinner for the family.

Actually, proper planning can mean prevention of deadly diseases in the long run, not to mention the prospect of a better quality of life. Children that receive adequate nutrition and exercise are far less prone to suffer from mood swings and related disorders, as well as diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, among others.

What can parents do to make it happen? The first step is to adopt the necessary changes in lifestyle themselves. It’s hardly any good for parents to impose certain dietary restrictions and lifestyle changes on their children when they don’t adhere to them, too.  Planning to stick to a healthier lifestyle should involve and engage the entire family.

Natural alternatives to help reduce cholesterol naturally include garlic, fish, flaxseed, and a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Flaxseed, with its high concentration of omega fatty acids, is one of leaders of the pack for its cholesterol-reducing properties. Mix ground flaxseed in smoothies, or use it to top cereals and oatmeal. Remember that it is high in fiber, which is excellent for the digestive tract, and therefore the immune system —but should be incorporated slowly into the diet.

Childhood is the stage when most people will develop life-long habits. That means keeping couch time at a minimum and ensuring a healthy, nutritious diet, plenty of exercise and activities—which will instill healthy habits that can last a lifetime and carry on for generations to come!

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