5 Heart-healthy habits for children & teens

In an era of fast-food convenience and a preference for indoor tech activities, it’s never been more important to instil healthy habits for children in order to secure their future. The foundation for building good cardiovascular health starts in childhood. Parents and caregivers need to apply effective methods to drive a healthy lifestyle and positive mindset in children, which will benefit both their physical and mental well-being. Get Bloom’s top tips about the best ways for families to promote a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Why a heart-healthy lifestyle is important

Cardiovascular disease is on the rise in South Africa. It’s estimated that up to 210 people die from heart disease every day. Sadly, many of these deaths are lifestyle-related and preventable but due to a lack of awareness about the dangers of heart disease, many people fail to take proper care of themselves, increasing their risk of developing cardiovascular problems or related health complications. That is why it’s critical to instil lifelong health habits in children because prevention is better than cure. Help them make informed decisions by providing them with guidance and direction about heart-healthy behaviour. A disciplined, well-informed child is far more likely to practice a healthy lifestyle as a teenager and adult.

Healthy habits for children also have the following benefits:

  • Decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, or related health issues like obesity or high blood pressure.
  • Improved academic performance as a healthy lifestyle positively impacts mental functioning, leading to overall educational improvements.
  • Balanced emotional well-being, as a healthy lifestyle, can decrease stress and contribute to good self-esteem and mental health.
  • Reduced medical costs as a healthy life and lifestyle mean that a child is less likely to develop certain illnesses or conditions.
  • Positive relationships with parents and caregivers. By encouraging a heart-healthy lifestyle, you can be an inspirational role model for your child.

5 of the best healthy habits for children

Incorporating healthy habits into the daily lives of children and teenagers will help them develop a heart-healthy mindset that will benefit them into adulthood.

1. Importance of physical activity

Regular exercise is an important component of heart health. Limiting screen time for kids to a maximum of two hours per day is a good start. That includes TV, smartphone, tablet or computer. Make sure your child engages in at least 30-60 minutes of vigorous physical activity every day, preferably outdoors. Look for activities that will interest and motivate your child to get active. Most schools offer a wide range of team sports, like cricket, soccer and netball. There are also engaging specialist hobbies like ballet or mountain biking. A great way to get your child moving is to exercise as a family. Weekend hikes, park runs and trips to the beach are excellent ways to keep fit and active while spending quality time together as a family.

2. Eating a balanced diet

Heart-healthy foods are critically important for good health in general. Many heart-related complications, like obesity, are linked to a poor diet. Food that is high in trans fats, for instance, like baked goods and fast foods, can increase one’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease by increasing LDL or “bad” cholesterol and contributing to atherosclerosis.

Serve a balanced diet, which includes protein, whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy fats and dairy. Limit their intake of food with a high level of sugar or salt, as well as processed or fast foods. Foods that have a high sugar content increase one’s risk of developing obesity, raise one’s blood pressure and contribute to inflammation, while food that has a high salt content can contribute to fluid retention in the body and put a strain on the heart by contributing to arterial stiffness.

3. Managing stress

In addition to being bad for one’s mental health and well-being, stress can also contribute to the development of heart disease. When a person is overwhelmed by stress, it can raise their blood pressure, disrupt the quality of their sleep and contribute to an irregular heartbeat. It can also lead to poor coping mechanisms, like a bad diet.

Encourage healthy habits for children by teaching them how to manage stress by engaging in enjoyable pastimes, having regular social interactions with their peers and seeking support when they’re feeling overwhelmed.

4. Healthy sleeping routine

A healthy sleep pattern is needed for good heart health. Quality sleep helps regulate blood pressure and supports cardiovascular functioning. The recommended sleep period for children will vary according to their age, but most healthcare professionals will confirm that a child needs at least ten hours of sleep per night while teenagers require eight to ten hours each night. Develop a disciplined sleep routine for your children, making sure they go to bed at a designated hour each night. Avoid blue light from tech devices, like smartphones, at least 1-2 hours before bed as this can disrupt the body’s sleep-wake cycle and negatively impact the quality of one’s sleep.

5. Make smart lifestyle decisions 

Explain the importance of making smart lifestyle choices that will impact their lives in the future. One such topic to discuss with your children and teenagers is the harmful effects of tobacco smoking and vaping. Many teenagers experiment with smoking because of peer pressure. Make it clear that nicotine is addictive, and has been linked to severe respiratory illnesses and heart disease.

Health insurance for the whole family

Bloom encourages parents and caregivers to instil healthy habits for children. Leading a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to decrease one’s risk of developing heart disease. Ensure that you and your family are covered for medical-related conditions, treatment or events by having access to private, top-quality medical services. Contact Bloom’s office to make an appointment with a trained consultant and they will discuss the various healthcare plans that are available.

Medical Content Disclaimer

You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.

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