By making heart healthy decisions as a family, you can implement practices that will promote a healthy lifestyle, a stronger bond amongst family members, and a longevity for a life well lived. This article will highlight ways that parents can stay heart healthy themselves, as well as practical ways to help children develop a healthy lifestyle. It will also highlight reasons why medicine may not be a “one stop shop” to answering your cardiovascular problems, as well as facts and risks associated with your heart.
How Parents Can Stay Heart Healthy
- There are many health conditions that contribute to risk for heart disease, and some factors such as gender, age, and family history lie outside of our control. Fortunately, we can take steps to lower our risk by focusing on and changing the factors we can control.
- While high blood pressure and high cholesterol are both major risk factors for heart disease, both can also be addressed through dietary changes.
- Research by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has proven that those who followed the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet lowered their blood pressure in just two weeks. The diet focuses on foods that are low in saturated and trans fats, rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and protein, and low in sodium. Foods such as whole grains, nuts, broccoli, carrots, kale, and lean meats are encouraged.
Teaching Kids to be Heart Healthy
- Help children understand the importance of a healthy diet by leading through example, but be careful not to overload them with messages about the food they’re eating.
- Most kids have a natural inclination to MOVE and PLAY. Harness that by promoting exercise as typical part of your day. Depending on your zip code landscape, take advantage of your surroundings by going on hikes, kayaking trips or even walks around your neighborhood. Kids also love to go on bike rides, scooter rides, or playing tag. Don’t forget to get involved yourself. Having fun and laughing isn’t just for kids!
- Did you know that fresh air can improve your overall health? Benefits of fresh air include improved digestion, increased energy, clean lungs, and a boosted immune system. In summary, get outside! As a family, create strong routines in walks around the neighborhood, playing kickball in the backyard, and organizing a game of hide and seek in the driveway.
- Get kids involved in the kitchen so that they can assist with preparing healthy meals. From mixing to stirring, chopping to flipping, there are plenty of options on how kids can help serve healthy meals for the family.
Why Medicine May Not be the Answer to Being Heart Healthy
- High cholesterol increases the risk of a number of conditions, including atherosclerosis (a condition where plaque builds up on our artery walls, restricting blood flow). While there are blood thinners to help reduce the risk of clots, stroke and deep vein thrombosis, many carry their own risks, including internal hemorrhage and potentially life-threatening bleeding from otherwise minor injuries.
- Diuretics are sometimes prescribed to help rid your body of salt and water, thus lowering the pressure on your blood vessel walls. While generally safe, they may be prescribed in conjunction with an ACE Inhibitor, a drug which prevents the body from producing angiotensin II (an enzyme in the body that narrows your blood vessels) ultimately lowering pressure on blood vessel walls. ACE Inhibitors have also caused angioedema, a condition which causes some areas of bodily tissues to swell. If this swelling occurs in the throat, it can prove fatal.
Risks That Degrade Heart Health
- It should come as no surprise that smoking increases the risk of a number of serious conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer almost anywhere on the body. If there weren’t already enough reasons to quit, smoking also exacerbates atherosclerosis by making arterial fat deposits more likely to form and to grow larger and more quickly.
- Lack of exercise is another common risk factor for heart disease and a slew of other health problems. If you lead a primarily sedentary lifestyle, consider adding some of these heart healthy exercises to your routine.
- For people that have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, they are at an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, and artery disease.
Cholesterol is an essential form of fat found in your blood. Although it is essential, too much cholesterol in the blood can increase your risks for heart disease. Cholesterol can be broken down into three different categories: LDL, HDL, and Triglycerides.
- LDL is known as your “bad cholesterol.” When it builds up, it can reduce blood flow and cause blockages.
- HDL is known as your “good cholesterol.” It helps clear your arteries by carrying cholesterol away from your blood.
- Triglycerides are a common type of fat found in the body. Triglycerides give your body energy which is great, but too much triglycerides can thicken your blood which decreases flow.
Heart Healthy Facts
- 2,300 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day. This is an average of one death every 38 seconds.
- Cardiovascular Disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That equates to about one woman dying per minute.
- High cholesterol has no symptoms, so many are unaware that their numbers are high.
- Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the USA for both men and women.
- Heart Disease costs the United States about 2 billion dollars per year. This total includes medications, lost productivity, and cost of health care services.
February is American Heart Month. It is a federally designated event meant to spark awareness of heart healthy factors that can keep yourself, your family, and your community aware. Knowing all of the facts about heart health, I think we can all agree that this awareness should be promoted and practiced 12 months out of the year.
Photo Credit: Mojitos and Munchkins, Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash, Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash
Source: American Heart Association, FloraProactive, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention