When we think of February, we think of the symbol of the heart. While it’s fun to celebrate Valentines Day and show our love for others, it’s also an opportunity to focus on our own heart health.
As a pediatrician and also board certified in obesity medicine, there’s a special place in my own heart for my patients and their family’s heart health and nutrition. In fact, I regularly partner with HOPES’ nutritionist, and diabetes management teams, working with kids who have obesity and their families to achieve a healthy weight, and ultimately a healthy heart.
It can often feel overwhelming for kids and families to achieve their health goals. When working with patients, I find it beneficial to break down easy to follow and easy to access nutrition, physical activity and mindfulness tips. I encourage families to start with small and easy changes. Small changes in habits can make big differences in health. Each goal reached builds confidence for achieving the next.
Below you’ll find some simple tips to improve your heart health:
- Eat a more plant-based diet with more fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
- Eat leaner and smaller portions of meat – more seafood and poultry.
- Eat more freshly prepared meals with whole foods, and eat less prepared packaged and processed foods.
- Eat lower fat dairy.
- Consume less salt and use other seasonings.
- The Mediterranean Diet or DASH Diet both follow the above recommendations and are sustainable plans for nutrition that are not restrictive. They help provide guidance on making healthier choices.
Physical Activity Tips and Guidance
- Build physical activity into your day. Take the stairs, park far away from the store, use a standing desk at work, or walk your kids to school.
- There is no “one-size fits all” approach to nutrition and physical activity.
- Move your body
Wellness Tips and Guidance
- Practice mindfulness through meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to reduce stress. There are many good smartphone apps to help do this. This can reduce stress hormones and reduce body inflammation that can lead to higher risk for heart disease.
- Get adequate sleep! The Power of Sleep
I encourage families to make health changes together for more support and optimum success. Using the tips above and the 5-2-1-0 or Small Steps guide as easy-to-remember ways to get started and get healthier.
Additional Resources Below:
- Power of Sleep English | Spanish
- 5210 Healthy Habits Questionnaire Ages 2-9
- 5210 Healthy Habits Questionnaire Ages 10 Up
- 5210 Healthy Habits Questionnaire 18 Up Plus Small Steps
- Small Steps
- Small Steps Scientific Rationale
- Small Steps Supporting Evidence
- Small Steps Handout