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Heart Your Heart: Tips for Kids and Families to Maintain Heart Health – Part 1

on February 11, 2013

heartFebruary is Heart Health month, but I feel heart health awareness should be every month.  Teaching and modeling for our children healthy habits to keep the strongest muscle in our body in tip-top shape should be at the top of our priority lists.  Unfortunately, as many things such as activity levels and food choices & quality, have changed in our society, this has directly impacted overall heart health of Americans.  Heart disease has dramatically been on the rise over the past 20 years, and is one of the top causes of death amongst Americans of ALL ages.  This is something we can start to combat NOW.  We’ve heard countless times that we need to reduce inflammation and keep our arteries unclogged.  Yet, many of us don’t take all of the necessary steps to try and safeguard ourselves and our families from this silent killer.  I could write a novel of an article of all the ways to keep our heats healthy, but here are a few top suggestions to consider:

* ACTIVITY LEVEL – it is so important to get off of our butts and get active, as much as possible.  All too often, our lives have gravitated to a sedentary way of doing things.  Whether it’s sitting at a desk to do work or children resorting to playing video games as a source of entertainment, we are becoming less and less active.  Aside from making our heart healthy by creating a stronger muscle to circulate our blood through our bodies, cardio activity raises endorphins so we feel great, in addition to burning unnecessary fat and calories so these unwanted guests don’t take up residence in our bodies.  For starters, putting down all of our “equipment” (i.e. cell phones, computers, televisions, video games, etc.) for certain periods through the day will grant us the time and opportunity to focus on doing something with our entire bodies rather than just our opposable thumbs.  Whether it be having 10 minute “sweating contests” with your kids or tracking on a chart who can spend the most time jumping around during the course of a week, there are many ideas and opportunities out there to get active with our kids.  Not only will it be good for them, but for us as well.  We will be showing that making the time to make exercise a priority is just as important as needing to eat, shower, and, errr, check our cell phones and computers like crazed maniacs throughout the day.  Here are a few ideas taken from some neat websites for ideas to get active:


Kids love it when you play physically with them.  It’s a terrific way to add some connection and fun back into a relationship that too often deteriorates into correction and conflict. You don’t need to tell your kids this exercising is for you — they’ll assume it’s special family time! (And if your child is spending too much time staring at screens, this is the best way to get her up and moving.)  The secret is setting aside the time.  Even ten minutes is a great start during the week.  On the weekend, you can plan an outing.  Before you know it, you’ll have worked up to half an hour daily, with an hour on weekend days.  Ok, you’ll skip some days.  But if that’s more exercise than you’re getting now, read on.

Simply set an alarm for your “Let’s Get Physical” time. Then, choose a fun activity that requires physical exertion. When you find something you love doing, do more of it.  Soon you’ll have a whole repertoire of family physical activity that makes you happy.
For instance:

  • Put on music and dance with your family.
  • Use your little one as a football, run her around the rest of the family into the end zone.  Your kids will love it.
  • Take a soccer ball outside and take turns chasing each other as you dribble the ball. Kids love the soccer practice.
  • Play dance revolution, tag, or Frisbee with your children.
  • Join your kids on the monkey bars.  Great upper body workout — Who cares what the other parents think?
  • When you’re confined to the house, play “Take off each others’ socks,” wrestling, or chase games.
  • Get work-out DVDs from the library and do them with your kids.

For outings:

  • Load the kids into the car and drive to the track at your local high school on the evening or weekend when it’s empty.  Let the kids play in the middle, or ride their trikes or bikes around the track, while you walk or jog.
  • Join the local Y or pool so you can swim all year. Just put floaties or other floatation wear on your child, hold him in one arm on your hip, and swim with the other arm for a terrific workout.
  • Walk your baby in the sling, or run with a jogging stroller.
  • “Baby & Me” yoga classes
  • Put your favorite podcasts on your ipod and go for a walk, either by yourself or with your little one in a carrier or stroller.
  • Let your exercise time double as social time by walking with a friend and her child; the kids will entertain each other.
  • If your child is old enough, bike or roller blade together.
  • Chasing your toddler all over the playground?  Get a pedometer, and work up to at least 10,000 steps a day.

When you’re working:

  • Walk or bike to work (If it takes an extra 15 minutes each way, that’s a small price to pay for so much exercise.)
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator at work.
  • Walk around your office while you’re on the phone.  Use a pedometer and keep trying to increase your daily steps.

You won’t believe how much this ten minute daily practice lifts your mood.  And when we feel good, it has an almost magical effect on our children.  We have a lighter touch, and a sense of humor.  We don’t get triggered as easily.  All of which makes our kids happier and more cooperative.

You’re also modeling an active lifestyle for your child.  Kids who are physically active into the preteen and teen years are 75% less likely to be overweight when they’re grown.

If you do this every single day, you’ll all start looking forward to it. Way to nurture yourself and your child at the same time! 


Here’s another site with some great exercise ideas:

* HEALTHY WEIGHTAll too often we hear how adults would like to be “thinner” or want to diet to lose weight.  Many times, the reason for doing so is not to improve one’s heart health, yet it should be the #1 reason.  Most cases of heart disease are brought on by unhealthy weight gain in individuals.  When our body weight is too high, it puts too much stress on the heart to be able to pump and circulate the blood effectively through the body.  The heart winds up working twice to three times as hard as it should, and therefore diminishes the length of life of the heart, leading to many heart attacks or clogged arteries.  A healthy weight and reasons for maintaining a healthy weight can be modeled and taught from an early age (and give better reasons for keeping a “fit” body rather than solely for aesthetic purposes).

* TEACH ABOUT NO SMOKING AND TOBACCO USE– Start as early as possible teaching about the dangers of smoke and second-hand smoke (in addition to how damaging to the heart the ingredients in tobacco are).

* HEALTHY TEETH = HEALTHY HEART – Many people do not realize how important dental health is to overall health, namely heart health.  Much of the dangerous bacteria that builds up in our mouths due to insufficient dental care travels throughout the body, causing inflammation and even infections that can go undetected for years.  This undetected health risk can break down the heart’s ability to function properly and even lead to disease.  Be sure to get dental check-ups every 6 months and treat periodontal disease as effectively as possible, as this is the #1 cause of dental-related heart health issues.  Teaching our children how important it is to keep our mouths and teeth clean is imperative… and will keep costly dental bills to a minimum in the future.  While it may be inconvenient and an expense to get dental check-ups every 6 months, consider what progressive dental issues will cost, and/or heart-related illness due to untreated dental infections in the future.

* AVOID TRANS-FATS AT ALL COSTS – I could go into an hour-long lecture as to how dangerous trans-fats are, but will leave you with this simple lesson that these frankenfoods are created in a lab, are as natural as plastic, and cause the artery-clogging and hardening nightmare known as arteriosclerosis.  Read your food labels and don’t pay attention to whether or not something claims to be “trans-fat free” – if ANYWHERE in the ingredients list it says “hydrogenated” or “partially-hydrogenated,” drop it and RUN.  Thanks to the FDA’s loophole labeling law, products are allowed to claim being “trans-fat free” as long as there is 0.5g or less trans-fats per serving.  However, a company can make a serving any size wanted to evade this law, so a small snack-size bag of chips could technically be 3 or 4 servings…and at 0.5 g of trans-fat per serving, that’s 2 grams of trans-fats you’re eating of a “trans-fat free” food…. Go figure.  It’s lying, deceptive garbage that you need to be aware of and need to keep out of everyone’s reach if you aim to keep your heart (and every other part of your body) healthy.


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