February is American Heart Month, and it’s the perfect time to discuss how to keep your child’s heart healthy. Pediatricians emphasize the importance of children’s heart health, especially since heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. From proper nutrition to regular exercise, there are a number of lifestyle changes that can help protect your child’s heart health. Let’s explore some of the most effective ways to ensure your child’s heart remains strong and healthy.
Why is it important to focus on your child’s heart health?
Within a statement released by the American Heart Association, they stated “Promoting cardiovascular health in children is key to preventing heart disease later in life. Heart disease kills an estimated 610,000 Americans a year. Unlike other diseases, we can control the many factors that may cause heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. This is why early intervention is important. Parents have an opportunity for prevention.”
What are some things parents can do to keep their children’s hearts healthy?
Here are some tips that families can implement to help prioritize your child’s heart health:
- Children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
- To encourage healthy eating habits, include nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources like beans or chicken, whole grains like oatmeal or quinoa, and low-fat dairy like yogurt or cheese.
- Limiting foods and beverages with added sugars is also recommended for toddlers. If a toddler does consume sugary treats or snacks, it should be done in moderation and balanced out with healthy choices.
- In addition to providing nutrient-rich foods, parents should limit screen time to one hour per day for toddlers two years old or older; this helps ensure adequate physical activity and social interaction.
- If your child is an athlete, schedule sports physicals before the season begins.
- Lastly, make sure your child gets adequate sleep each night. Sleep deprivation can lead to a weakened immune system and can take a toll on your child’s heart.
A balanced lifestyle of physical activity, healthy eating, good sleep hygiene, and stress management are all essential components of toddler health.
What are some warning signs parents should look out for?
It’s important for parents to be aware of any warning signs that their child may be having heart problems. While not all these symptoms are necessarily indicative of a major issue, it is still wise to contact a doctor if any of these issues arise.
In younger children, chest pain, difficulty breathing, pale skin, fatigue and fever can all be indicative of a heart problem. In toddlers, episodes of cyanosis or “blue spells”, where the face or fingers turn blue or gray, could be a sign of a heart problem. Heart murmurs can also be an indicator of an issue, though they may not always signal a health concern. It’s important to take your toddler for regular check-ups so that doctors can monitor their heart health and catch any potential issues early on.
What are some resources parents can use to learn more?
When it comes to learning more about toddler health and heart health, there are numerous resources available to parents.
The American Heart Association (AHA) is a great resource for parents, offering a variety of resources such as tips on healthy eating habits and ways to prevent heart disease in children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also provides helpful resources related to children’s heart health, including information on common childhood illnesses, nutrition guidelines, and tips on how to manage cholesterol levels in children. The CDC’s website also features an interactive map which shows the prevalence of heart disease among different age groups.
In addition to these national organizations, local health departments may provide resources specific to the needs of your community. Check with your local pediatrician for more info.