Heart disease is a clinical condition that is quite common in teenagers and kids, in addition to older people and young adults. This is mainly attributed to two major factors pertaining to the current lifestyle namely unhealthy eating habits (junk and processed foods) and leading a sedentary life (watching TV and playing video-games). With the rising cases of hypertension and obesity (controllable risk factors of heart disease) in kids, it is time we started care for our children’s heart health. And, this is where you as parents come into the picture. Wondering how you can start? Her are some quick tips from our expert:
Dr. Amar Singhal, HOD, Cardiology; Delhi based Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute.
- Plan a healthy breakfast: It is very important to eat a nutritious breakfast to boost energy levels and immunity in kids. Foods rich in proteins and soluble fibres such as oats are best, as they help lower blood cholesterol and also help maintaining a healthy heart.
- Shop wisely: Always buy 100% whole wheat or grains when you go to the market and opt for heart-healthy oils or oils derived from nuts such as olive, avocado, sunflower, rice bran and hemp oil.
- Snack on heart-healthy foods: Foods low in saturated fats and containing omega 3 fats (walnuts and beans) are good for the heart as well as brain. Hence, replace unhealthy snacks like cookies, chocolates, chips, etc with healthy snacks or fresh fruits. As for chocolates, organic dark chocolate are considered to be heart-healthy as they are rich in antioxidants.
- Check salt intake: Since hypertension is a common risk factor of heart disease, consuming foods (such as salt) that increase the risk the blood pressure levels in the body should be carefully monitored. Therefore, avoid foods containing high amounts of salts like processed foods along with keeping the salt shaker off the table.
- Foods to avoid: It is highly recommended that you avoid trans-fats since they increase cholesterol levels in the body thereby ultimately posing a threat to the heart health. Also, consumption of soft drinks should be restricted in kids as it increases the risk of obesity – a key risk factor of heart disease — by 60%.
- Allow your kids to play: One of the most effective ways to keep your heart active and healthy is through being physically active. Although exercising is a good idea, allowing your children to play in the open, is great as it has innumerable health benefits. You can also use exercise as a way to connect as a family, as an added bonus watching you work out will keep your kids motivated.
- Get regular health check-ups: It is wise to get yearly health check-ups (especially BP measurements) for children along with the adults. Also, kids above 3 years of age and those at an increased risk of heart disease (family history) are advised to get health check-ups regularly.