Heart disease remains the number one killer of Americans. It is even more tragic when it relates to our children. Three out of four children between the ages of 9 – 11 years old already have the beginning stages of heart disease. We are seeing the streaky fat deposits in their young blood vessels setting them up for a lifetime of illness and early death. All children are at-risk if they are living the typical American lifestyle.
In previous years heart disease in children typically was associated with a congenital heart defect or some odd complication due to an infection. Heart disease was not related to lifestyle, but all of that has changed in one generation. We are afraid that our kids will be snatched off the lawn, so we isolate them inside the house under the guise of keeping them safe. They long for personal interaction so they turn to a virtual world to fulfill these needs. They become sedentary for hours on end as they immerse themselves in a world of gaming competing with unknown rivals. Young people long for deep emotional ties to peers but instead develop and maintain a certain social media persona.
They discuss their private thoughts with strangers online and use emoji’s to communicate feelings. They long for acceptance and believe they find it in people that they will never meet in person.
Is it a shock then that our kids have “broken” hearts?
A lot has changed in the world since Camp Jump Start began in 2003. Most parents with overweight kids recognize the unhealthy path and want to change course but they lack the knowledge to do it. Camp Jump Start has helped put families back on track to health but Camp Jump Start is no longer trying to prevent heart disease; Camp Jump Start is working to reverse heart disease in our children!
Here are a dozen ways to help your child heal a “broken” heart-
- Weigh every family member on Friday morning and track a healthy weight for each. Reward accomplishments!
- Know lab values. Track A1c and lipid profiles-pay attention to each level for how it is trending.
- Know blood pressures. Aim for below 120/80.
- Drink water until your urine is pale yellow to maintain good hydration. Straight water is recognized and needed by your body. It keeps blood from becoming “thick”.
- Include a large variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans in the diet.
- Decrease or eliminate extra sugar, salt, oil and animal products—especially dairy in the diet.
- Routinely eat/prepare food from home so you know what you are really eating. Treat yourself once every two weeks to a meal outside of the home.
- A child must SWEAT every day for an hour! Let them choose the activity-team sport, individual sport like running or dancing to name a few but remember that they must sweat. We want them to be challenged so their heart muscle remains strong and we rid the body of harmful toxins.
- Manage stress as much as possible. Kids need help with organization and coping skills. Intervene if stress becomes unhealthy from school or activities. Exercise can relieve stress too!
- Know your kids passwords and who they communicate with online. Disconnect from social media on a routine basis. It is your house and you pay the bills so kids live by your rules!
- Help them sleep without disturbance. All electronics must be removed from the bedroom at night so set up a charging station somewhere in your home away from the bedrooms. Then lead by example by keeping your cell phone there too.
- You cannot be your child’s friend. Kids can make friends, but they only get a few parents. Be their parent and guide them. Help your child find their “people”. Help them fit in but always remember that we do become like the people we surround ourselves with….so choose carefully. A community like Camp Jump Start and Living Well Village can be a lifeline for many kids and families, but again to remain successful, kids and families must stay connected to us.
May February be the month that your family decides to put an end to heart disease in your family.