Many parents wonder if they should be concerned about their kids’ heart health. They assume children are too young to understand what it takes to maintain a healthy heart, and there will be time to address that issue as their children grow.
At Pediatric Associates of Franklin, we know it’s never too early to instill good heart health. When explained in terms they understand, heart health is a concept all children can grasp. Children who develop heart health at an early age are more likely to maintain good overall health in the future.
Explaining the Heart
Children should know the heart is a muscle, and it works hard to provide the blood their bodies need. The heart also provides oxygen and nutrients, and rids the body of waste. Show your child where the heart is by pointing to the left of the middle of his chest. Place your child’s hand over the heart to feel the heartbeat. Explain that with each beat, the heart fills with blood and then contracts or tightens to push the blood out. Kids can mimic this by opening and closing their fists.
Additionally, teach your child how to find a pulse on the inside of the wrists or the sides of the neck. Older children can calculate their resting heart rate (RHR) and discover how hard their hearts work during exercise. For most children, a normal resting heart rate is 70 to 100 beats per minute.
Encourage Physical Activity
Exercise is perhaps the best way to keep the heart healthy. Kids are often more open to exercise than adults are, because they haven’t learned to associate it with work. Children think of exercise as fun, so capitalize on that. Encourage your children to play outside as much as possible. Older kids can play sports like soccer or basketball, but even the youngest children can get a cardio workout from tag or hide-and-seek. Jump rope is another great activity; many schools participate in Jump Rope for Heart, a program associated with the American Heart Association.
You and your kids can make small healthy choices every day to keep your hearts in good working order. Fruits and vegetables are at the top of every pediatrician’s heart-healthy food list. If your child resists these foods, try mixing them in a smoothie or preparing low-calorie dipping sauces to pair with them. Pediatricians also recommend whole grains, fish, and lean meats. Avoid red meats; if bacon or sausage is a must in your house, go for soy or turkey varieties.
Chat with your Pediatrician for more heart healthy tips.