Top 5 Heart Health Tips for Kids

Heart Health

Families are busier than ever these days, but it’s essential to keep heart health top of mind for children of all ages. For Alex Foy, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Nebraska’s Criss Heart Center, heart health is a daily priority, both in his practice and at home as a father of four. Dr. Foy shares five expert tips to help families build lifelong habits for better heart health during childhood.

Focus on food

As a cardiologist, Dr. Foy encourages healthy eating habits with more fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains and avoiding foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and added sugars. As a dad, that means he tries to avoid b ringing home processed foods to his kids, shops the outside aisles of the grocery store where fresh and refrigerated foods are available and involves his whole family in shopping and cooking together.

Let’s get physical

Dr. Foy advises families to provide opportunities for daily exercise, aiming for at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity for children and adolescents. At home, he and his family participate in sports and play together physically, and they set clear parameters around screen time to encourage a more active lifestyle.

Catch those Zs

Dr. Foy stresses the importance of sleep, which is important for both physical and mental health. Sleep recommendations vary by age, but at least 10 hours of sleep is generally the recommendation for children under 18 years old. For Dr. Foy and his family, they aim to keep regular nighttime routines and bedtimes, and electronics are not allowed in bedrooms.

Stay up on important health checks

When Dr. Foy sees patients and families, part of what he and his team assess includes blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It’s essential to monitor and manage those numbers with your child’s pediatrician, as they can contribute to the risk of developing heart disease later in life. Dr. Foy says his own children see their doctor at least yearly, and he recommends voicing any concerns about their development during those visits.

Don’t forget mental health and emotional wellbeing

As a physician, Dr. Foy knows that supporting kids’ mental health and emotional wellbeing is critical, as stress, anxiety and depression can affect their heart health. He recommends that families listen to their child’s feelings, offer feedback and seek professional help if needed. In his own family, he helps kids be social by developing good friendships and encouraging them to spend time together in-person. As a dad, Dr. Foy recognizes that creating memories together and leaving space to share thoughts and feelings helps children with physical, mental and emotional balance.

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