Preventative Care

February is for Healthy Hearts

Lauren Roux, PA-C
By: Lauren Roux, PA-C

Be smart about your heart!


February is Heart Health Month! When parents hear terms like “heart disease,” we don’t necessarily think of our kids or the pediatric population. Unfortunately, heart disease can affect kids, and living an unhealthy lifestyle can predispose them to heart disease later in life. Heart disease continues to be a significant cause of mortality in the United States. In addition, it is estimated that ⅓ of children in the United States are obese, and children who are overweight have a higher chance of developing heart disease as early as in their 20s. Establishing healthy habits during childhood can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease later in life. Regularly educating our children and modeling a heart-healthy lifestyle can set our children up for success.


When discussing heart health and a healthy lifestyle, I often find that parents are hesitant because they don’t want to cause any insecurities in their children. While this is a fair point, how we talk to our kids can greatly influence how they view themselves and their choices. I recommend that all parents speak early and often about our hearts and lifestyles in age-appropriate, scientific ways. We can do that by discussing the following recommendations:



Research shows that regularly engaging children in the selection and preparation of foods leads to an increased likelihood that children will try a variety of foods Educating about heart-friendly foods and the importance of fueling our bodies properly is also important. This allows children to make informed choices about their diet. If you need help discussing nutrition with your child or feel you could benefit from further information, reach out to your provider about scheduling an appointment with our Parkside nutritionists!

General Nutrition Guidelines:

  • Children over age one should eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods from our basic food groups
    • Cow’s milk/fortified soy products
    • Meats/protein sources
    • Whole grains
    • Fruits/vegetables
  • Avoid foods with added salt, sugar, or caloric sweeteners
    • In general, children should be drinking only water and milk.
    • A quick way to determine how many ounces of water your child should drink daily is to divide their weight in half
    • Example: A child weighing 80 pounds should aim for 40oz daily
  • Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish can contribute to heart health, so try to include fish in their diet regularly


Physical activity:

  • In a world of screens, this is becoming increasingly important as physical activity is vital to a healthy heart
  • Children should aim for at least one hour of vigorous physical activity daily
    • This can include sports, swimming, riding bikes, playing outdoors
    • Engaging in physical activity as a family is also a great way to bond! As the weather starts to warm up, go for a walk or schedule time to go hiking together!
  • Screen time should be limited
    • Ages 0-2: No screen time
    • Ages 5-10: Aim for less than 1 hour of screen time daily
    • Ages 11-21: Aim for less than 2 hours of screen time daily



  • Abnormal sleep duration has been linked to heart disease in adults
  • Focus on the following to ensure the best chance of quality rest for your child
    • Have a set bedtime and routine for your child
    • Sleep/wake times should be approximately the same time on school days and non-school days
  • Avoid screens for 2 hours before bedtime
    • Do NOT allow screens in the bedroom
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Keep your child’s room quiet and dark at night. A low-level night light is acceptable if your child is afraid of the dark


Regular health checkups:

  • Ensure that your children are having their age-appropriate checkups yearly. Regular monitoring of growth, development, and overall health allows for early detection of potential issues. It is also a great way to continue discussing a heart-healthy lifestyle with your child and their pediatrician. Schedule an appointment here.


Investing in the heart health of our children is an investment in their future well-being. Instilling healthy habits at a young age sets the foundation for our children to be happy and healthy. Remember, small changes can lead to big benefits, and discussing heart health early on allows for preventative action. Children tend to mimic those around them, so a family approach to heart health is the most effective way to teach kids. By being a positive role model and engaging in the recommended practices, parents can help set their children on the path to a long and healthy life.

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