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Keeping your heart healthy is a lifelong journey that begins in childhood. Habits, both good and bad, and relationships with food and exercise begin early in life, which is why it’s every parent’s job to help their child stay healthy. Although this need is very serious, staying heart healthy can be as fun as you make it. Plus, both you and your child will reap the benefits from practicing heart healthy habits.

Here are some ways to get your children and your whole family on a heart happy path!

Be the Good Example

From language to opinions, your children can become a mirror of what you say and do. Be a positive example for them by eating healthy. If you only eat clean, nutritious options, your children will come to think that is the normal way to eat. The reverse is also true. Childhood obesity is linked to the bad lifestyle habits of the family that surrounds them.

Pro Tip: Go grocery shopping with your children and point out what’s healthy. Explain nutrition labels and why it’s important to eat a certain way.

Get Hearts Racing

Getting adequate exercise is an important factor in staying heart healthy. Adults need 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week. Children ages 6 to 17 should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.

Use exercise to get in that family bonding time. Find some activities that everyone can do together, and mix in outdoor and indoor options. Try hiking, dancing, training for a 5k, tennis or swimming.

Pro Tip: Make your children’s chores involve physical activity. Yard work can be a great way to get your child moving (and lead to a great looking yard).

Turn It Off

With the ubiquity of tablets, TVs and cell phones, screens everywhere in our own daily lives and your children are no exception. They may have to use a computer to complete homework and it’s important they have friend time online, but limiting screen time is a good house rule to establish. You need to limit the time your children spend just sitting. Being sedentary can become a habit and lead to overeating. Try setting a limit of two hours per day.

Pro Tip: Turn off all devices two hours before bedtime. Exposure to blue light has been found to disrupt sleep patterns.

Make the Appointment

You and your children need to have regular checkups with your primary care physician. Make sure you come with questions and be ready to tell the physician any changes you have noticed in your child’s health or behavior. If your child is starting a sport, it’s a good idea to set up a physical. Keep up to date on vaccinations and ask about appropriate screenings. Don’t forget to get the flu vaccine every season!

Create a Winning Lunch

Giving your child lunch money is way easier than packing a lunch every day, but letting your child decide what they should eat will probably result in a chicken nugget diet. Pack a healthy lunch with a good amount of variety to keep it interesting. Be ready with a healthy snack when they come home from school, too. If chips and soda aren’t in the house, they can’t eat it. (Same goes for you!)

Set your children up to be heart healthy their whole lives by instilling in them great habits. Come together as a family and commit to living a healthier and happier lifestyle. Use your physician as a resource for information on diet, exercise and screenings.

To learn more, visit UTHealthEastTexas.com/HeartMonth. To find a physician and make an appointment, please call 903-596-DOCS.

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