by Sarah Fontaine, APRN, FNP-C
February is heart health month! I want to talk about some of our favorite little hearts: our kids’ hearts! Medical research indicates that cardiovascular health has its roots in childhood. Establishing healthy habits in childhood leads to lifetime health and wellness.
Top tips for pediatric cardiac health
- Teach your child that their heart is a muscle and pumps blood throughout their body. It is important to keep it healthy. Show them where their heart is located and have them feel their pulse.
- Exercise. This is one of the best ways to keep the heart healthy for both adults and children. The goal for children is 60 minutes of cardiovascular activity daily. The activity should be moderate to rigorous. Any movement is good movement, but the kind of exercise that leaves them “breathless” is the best kind. Keep them moving even in the winter. Bundle up and get outside for sledding, ice skating, snowman making, and hiking.
- Eat lots of fruits and veggies daily. Fruits and veggies are full of healthy fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients. The aim is to get 5 servings of fruits and veggies every day. Try mixing fruits and veggies in a smoothie, chop them up and put them on top of yogurt, or blend into sauces to sneak them in.
- Eat (and drink) well – Whole grains, lean meats, and fish are great heart healthy foods. Try to eliminate low nutrient, sugary drinks like soda and sports drinks and replace them with milk, water, and 100% fruit juice (in moderation).
- Breast feed your infant for as long as possible. Aim for at least one year.
- Limit screen time to less than 2 hours daily. (Its ok to use the electronic nanny while making dinner, Mom and Dad! Don’t stress.)
- Do not expose your children to cigarette smoke. Clean, fresh air keeps the heart and lungs healthy!
- Be sure to take your child for a sports physical prior to starting the sports season so that a thorough heart health screening can take place.
- Stay positive. Having a positive and joyful attitude helps keep our bodies in homeostasis. Try to be the example for your kiddos.
Enjoy February with your little ones. Don’t fear – spring will be here shortly!