Why Parents Need to Know About Heart Health

With four family birthdays this month plus Valentine’s Day, we celebrate a lot in February! Even so, the most important event we celebrate in February is Heart Health Awareness.

It’s not by choice. My husband’s father died at age 54 from heart disease. This might explain why my spouse, who just turned 55, runs religiously and we watch what we eat. My own cholesterol is higher than normal. Daily, I do a balancing act to keep my own numbers under control with diet and exercise. We’ve learned to love olive oil, nuts and avocados. Salad is a daily menu item.

We take good care of ourselves. We try to take even better care of our child. With our family history, teaching her about healthy eating and exercise is just as important to us as teaching her to look both ways before crossing a street.

Most of us think about heart issues as a worry for older adults. But a family history of heart disease and factors like obesity and physical inactivity can put a child at risk for early onset heart disease. Current research shows that the path to heart disease can indeed begin in childhood.

A study quoted by the American Academy of Pediatrics found signs of arteriosclerosis in 7 percent of children between the ages of 10-15. For kids aged 15-20 that rate nearly doubled. The link between childhood health and heart disease led physicians to change their recommendation on cholesterol screenings for children.

Prior to 2011, pediatricians only recommended screenings for children with a family history of heart disease. Now, they recommend all children between nine and eleven should be screened.

There’s no time like now, to help your kids learn how to stay healthy! If they ask you why, just tell them it comes from the heart. Happy Heart Health month!

Ready to Start? For a fun Valentine’s Day activity, help your child create a funny Valentine’s card “from the heart” and learn about healthy foods in the process. You can download the activity and instructions for kids here.

This week’s series of blog posts we’ll celebrate Heart Health Month with some ideas on “No Nag Nutrition,” how — and why — to talk to your kids about healthy eating in a fun way. We’ll also serve up some good tips on “How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Heart Healthy Foods” and some of the ways you can encourage your child to exercise more.

Happy Heart Health Month!


Published on: February 10, 2014
About the Author
Photo of Beth Bader

Beth Bader is the coauthor with Ali Benjamin of the acclaimed book, The Cleaner Plate Club, designed to help parents understand picky eating behaviors; where they originate, and how to deal with them creatively to get kids to eat better.

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