Kids these days: They're developing obesity and type 2 diabetes at an alarming rate. They're surrounded by junk food advertising, soft drink machines, processed and fat food -- as well as video games, TV, computers and other modern marvels that keep them inside and on the couch. Here are a few ideas to reverse the trends that can lead to early heart disease, and ways to promote heart-healthy habits for your family.
1. Get 'em moving.
This is a no-brainer: Exercise is health for our hearts. So how should you uproot your little couch potatoes? Make it fun. Stage an upstairs/downstairs/round the house road rally. Pay the kids to do a little speed cleaning or bigger tasks (like washing walls) that require aerobic activity. Or just crank up the stereo and dance! Show your kids how exercise can help them blow off steam and relax -- it might just help with item #4, below.
2. Get 'em crunching.
No, not crunching on chips, crackers or cookies, but on veggies and fruits. Many kids who won't touch a cooked pea love them frozen (they're sweet!). If mushy green beans, corn, broccoli and cauliflower aren't their thing, serve these veggies raw with a little yogurt dip on the side.
3. Get 'em snoozing.
According to the Women's Heart Foundation, "Chronic sleep loss may not only hasten the onset but could also increase the severity of age-related ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and memory loss." Encourage bedtime routines that occur at the same time each night.
4. Get 'em laughing.
A kid who knows how to have a good belly laugh is likely to have a stronger immune system than one who's riddled with stress. Physiologically, the physical act of laughter is good for us, releasing all kinds of brain-boosting chemicals that sustain energy levels and mood. According to researcher William Fry, he required 10 minutes on a rowing machine before his heart rate reached just one minute of hearty laughter.
5. Get 'em young.
Speak to them often about the role of smoking in heart disease. Exercise together as a family at regular intervals so it becomes a habit. Lead by example to create a heart-healthy culture in your home.