As fathers and mothers we are largely responsible for the health of our family members, including children, spouses and aging parents. Since cardiovascular health is of great concern, introducing heart-healthy habits into your family life is vital. Here is how it can be done.
1. Kick off bad habits
Parents always set a model for healthy or unhealthy behavior. Children in their turn learn a lot from watching and imitating the parents. For example, it is proven that children whose parents smoke are twice as likely to start smoking. Moreover, the longer one of the parents or both of them smoke, the more likely their children will, too. Meantime, many studies detail the evidence that smoking is a leading cause of coronary artery disease.
2. Cut back on watching TV or sitting in front of computer
While watching a family movie is a great way to relax, it’s important to monitor the time your family members spend on screens. Studies have shown that people who averaged more than 2 hours sitting in front of TV or computers had double risk of developing heart attack and other cardiovascular events, compared to those who allocated less than 2 hours on daily screen time. Therefore, maintain limits on ‘screen time’ and encourage physical activities for recreation instead.
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3. Don’t stress out
Although your family members may not tell you that they are stressed, excessive pressure to perform academically, financially or socially can cause clinical depression. And as it is pointed out by the AHA, 1 in 3 people with depression are likely to suffer myocardial infarction. So, encourage your family members to discuss their concerns openly and seek help when needed. Also learn to relax and kick back from time to time, getting your family members to do the same.
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4. Make healthy food choices
Food choices play a major role in heart disease prevention due to their impact on body weight and cholesterol levels. Avoid saturated fats from junk and processed foods like pastries, cookies, hamburgers as well as red meats, otherwise your cholesterol levels will rocket up resulting in atherosclerosis vs. Include fresh fruits and greens, fish, seafood and nuts into the diet and it’ll be the best reference to heart-friendly eating.
5. Avoid heavy meals
Apart from diet choices, serving size can affect heart health too. After eating a meal, the levels of the hormone epinephrine rise. This promotes high blood pressure and fast heart rate. Eating habits are best cultivated at an early age. Children under 3 will stop eating on their own when they are full. But after the age of 3, the more is put on their plate, the more they will eat. Therefore, give your kids child-size portions and try to habituate your family to eating small and light meals through the day, instead of overeating during large meals.
Teach your children about feelings of fullness. When you are asked for another helping, instead of saying ‘You have had enough’, say something like ‘You must be really hungry tonight’. This will raise awareness of your child’s feelings.
You can effectively influence your child’s healthy eating behavior by avoiding certain situations and talking in a positive way. For example, instead of saying ‘No’ to your child’s request for cookies, just don’t bring cookies home. It is easier to create healthy environment at home where there’s limited access to unhealthy foods and unrestricted access to healthy ones instead.
6. Be a role model
Remember, healthy changes cannot be forced, but can be inspired. First adopt healthy living habits in your own life and this will gradually inspire others to follow suit. When you’re determined and persistent, your family will model your behavior.
Richard Johnson is a health blogger. He enjoys writing about healthy lifestyle encouraging people to take care of their health. Richard contributes CardioGod.com an informative website about heart health. Connect with CardioGod through Facebook, Twitter and Google+