You can help your child develop healthy habits early in life that will bring lifelong benefits. As a parent, you can encourage your kids to evaluate their food choice and physical activity habits. Here are some tips and guidelines to get you started.Be a good role model – You don’t have to be perfect all the time, but if kids see you trying to eat right and getting physically active, they’ll take notice of your efforts. You’ll send a message that good health is important to your family. Keep things positive – Kid’s don’t like to hear what they can’t do, tell them what they can do instead. Keep it fun and positive. Everyone likes to be praised for a job well done. Celebrate successes and help children and teens develop a good self-image. Get the whole family moving – Plan times for everyone to get moving together. Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming, garden or just play hide-and-seek outside. Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the time together. Be realistic – Setting realistic goals and limits are key to adopting any new behavior. Small steps and gradual changes can make a big difference in your health over time, so start small and build
up. Limit TV, video game and computer time – These habits lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking, which increase risks for obesity and cardiovascular disease. Limit screen time to 2 hours per day. Encourage physical activities that they’ll really enjoy – Every child is unique. Let your child experiment with different activities until they find something that they really love doing. They’ll stick with it longer if they love it. Pick truly rewarding rewards – Don’t reward children with tv, video games, candy or snacks for a job well done. Find other ways to celebrate good behavior. Make dinnertime a family time – When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much. Get your kids involved in cooking and planning meals. Everyone develops good eating habits together and the quality time with the family will be an added bonus. Make a game of reading food labels – The whole family will learn what’s good for their health and be more conscious of what they eat. It’s a habit that helps change behavior for a lifetime. Stay involved – Be an advocate for healthier children. Insist on good food choices at school. Make sure your children’s healthcare providers are monitoring cardiovascular indicators like BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol. Contact public officials on matters of the heart. Make your voice heard. – School intervention may improve kids’ heart health long term; American Heart Association Meeting Report. Study Highlights: A program to educate students about heart-healthy lifestyles resulted in significant improvements in middle school students’ cholesterol levels and resting heart rates, including four years of follow-up. Students continued to experience health benefits, make better food
choices and participate in physical activities after the intervention, suggesting that such a program could decrease cardiovascular disease and diabetes risks. Middle school students who were offered healthier cafeteria food, more physical education and lessons about health choices improved their cholesterol levels and resting heart rates, according to research presented at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research 2011 Scientific Sessions. “This four-year school intervention in Ann Arbor, Mich., was designed to promote healthier lifestyle choices and it shows that programs like this could have long-term impact on obesity and other health risks,” said Elizabeth A. Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., co-author of the study and assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan. “Such changes may have sustained benefits in terms of reducing incidences of diabetes and cardiovascular disease as the students age.” The intervention was conducted through Project Healthy Schools, a coalition of the University of Michigan and local community and business organizations working to improve the health and behavior choices of middle school students. It was considered so successful that it’s now being expanded to about 20 middle schools in Michigan, Jackson said. Specifically, the program goals for the students included: Eating more fruits and vegetables; Eating less fatty foods; Making better beverage choices; Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week; and Spending less time in front of the TV and computer. To help determine whether the initiative
could decrease future cardiovascular disease and diabetes risks, Jackson and colleagues studied 593 students. They collected data for four consecutive years on body mass index, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, heart rate and student self-evaluations of diet, exercise and other behaviors.“Results of the wellness survey indicate that, after four years, students continued to make health-conscious decisions,” Jackson said. The researchers report: Average cholesterol, which was 167.39 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) at the start of the study, was an average of 149.04 mg/dL at the end of four years. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) was an average 92.02 mg/dL at the study’s start, versus 85.88 after four years. Resting heart rate (beats per minute) were an average 81.3 compared to 78.3 after four years. A limitation of the study is that it does not compare students in the program to similar groups not participating. Such a comparison study would be the next step in determining an association between initiative participation and health benefits, Jackson said.Co-authors are Nicole L. Corriveau, B.S.; Roopa Gurm, M.S.; Caren S. Goldberg, M.D.; Jean DuRussel-Weston, R.N., M.P.H.; Taylor F. Eagle; Lindsey Gakeheimer; LaVaughn Palma-Davis, M.A.; Susan Aaronsonl, R.D., M.A.; Catherine M Fitzgerald, R.D., M.A.; Lindsey Mitchell, M.P.H.; Bruce Rogers, B.S.; Eva Kline-Rogers, R.N., M.S.; and Kim A. Eagle, M.D. Project Healthy Schools is supported by unrestricted grants from the University of Michigan Health System, the Thompson Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the Mardigian Foundation and the Robert C. Atkins Foundation. WASHINGTON, D.C., May 13, 2011 – News from: American Heart Association
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