national heart monthIf you didn’t know already, February is National Heart month. It’s an opportunity to increase awareness and education about heart disease. The most important thing to know about heart disease is that it can be prevented. But prevention starts at home. If healthy habits become the norm for families not only will adults keep heart disease at bay, they’ll be setting their kids up for a healthy future.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, more than cancer. However, heart disease can be prevented with simple lifestyle changes. The best thing parents can do right now, is begin setting the stage for all members of the household.

The truth is that many kids and families continue to take in an abundance of processed food, sweets and soda pop. Further, thanks to technology, 60 per cent of adults do not get the recommended amount of exercise to ward off disease and 74% of children between the ages of 5 and 10 do not get enough exercise on a daily basis. So it is no surprise heart disease is not only a threat to adults, but kids as well. Children as young as 6 years old are showing risk factors for heart disease including elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

The CDC reports that being overweight or obese increases the risk of other diseases and health conditions including hypertension, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and some cancers including endometrial, breast and colon cancer.

Bottom line, the combination of poor nutrition and inactivity can be lethal. Following are some suggestions on ways you and your family can celebrate Heart Month and eliminate heart disease from your household.

Fight the urge to splurge.

As parents it’s easy to fall victim to “fitting in” when it comes to food selections. As far as nutrition for kids, I am not a purist, nor do I believe that children should abstain from any treats- ever. I simply encourage parents to be selective about the snack foods kids eat not only in its content but in frequency.

No one should skip breakfast.

Skipping breakfast is not an option. Study after study shows kids that eat breakfast fare better in school and overall performance. And the same holds true for adults. Further, those that skip breakfast tend to be overweight. Even if it’s a healthy granola bar, start your day off with breakfast!

Monkey see, monkey do.

If your kids see you sitting around and being inactive, they will follow suit; especially, if you tend to spend a lot of time in front of the television or computer. Your nutrition choices will also be emulated by your children. Being young doesn’t mean that kids are exempt from being unhealthy. You are a role model, therefore model regular exercise and healthier nutrition choices and you not only be saving your own life, but your child’s as well.

Seek expert advice when necessary

You may find that you really struggle with making good choices for your family. If that’s the case, visit www.eatright.org/public/ for a local dietitian in your area.

Disease in our country continues to grow and its victims are getting younger and younger. Why not take advantage of the information in this post and implement some healthy changes in your home today? We set rules for our kids in many areas; why not have rules when it comes to food choices and activity?

Being healthy is a choice. Choose to fight heart disease by making healthy living a family affair.