CONSULT February 2019

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To make health your home, live by this heart-healthy code: 95210

Published on Friday, February 1, 2019

By: Annie Oeth

Habits that make for a healthy heart should start sooner rather than later, said Dr. William Moskowitz, chief of pediatric cardiology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Portrait of Dr. William Moskowitz
Moskowitz

“Having healthy habits from childhood means that children can grow up with fewer health issues and, by adulthood, those habits are a lifestyle,” said Moskowitz, director of the Children’s Heart Center at Batson Children’s Hospital. “These habits will also reduce the chances of obesity in children and adults.”

No matter where families live, they should make the heart-healthy “ZIP code” of 95210 their home, he said. The numbers of this destination make these good habits memorable.

They are:

9:Get at least nine hours of sleep each night for children and teenagers.

Most healthy adults need seven-to-nine hours of sleep each night. Studies have shown that getting enough sleep offers the benefits of more energy, better weight control and stronger immunity.

5:Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Portrait of Krista King
King

The vitamins, minerals and fiber provided by plants support children’s growth and development without packing a lot of calories or sugar. Adding those five servings doesn’t have to be difficult, said Krista King, a registered dietitian with the Children's of Mississippi Weight and Wellness Clinic.

“Snack time is a perfect time to get in extra servings of fruits and vegetables,” she said. “Keep colorful raw vegetables like cherry tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, red and yellow mini bell peppers, and sugar snap peas plentiful with a variety of dips, such as hummus, ranch dressing made with Greek yogurt or guacamole.

“For dinner, incorporate a new vegetable with an old favorite, such as cauliflower in macaroni and cheese or puree carrots, peppers and squash into tomato sauce to be used on pizzas, spaghetti and casseroles. For a sweet treat, roll cut-up fruit or berries into low-fat Greek yogurt and freeze. You also can top salads, cereal and oatmeal with fruit.”

For family members who enjoy smoothies, blend in a handful of berries, chunks of avocado and some leafy greens for a boost of healthy fats, vitamins and fiber, she said.

2: Keep screen time to two hours or less.

This includes video games, television, computers and cell phones. A recent study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found a correlation between the time toddlers spend in front of a screen and poorer scores on developmental tests later in childhood. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to one hour for children ages 2 to 5.

Put cell phones away at dinner time so family members can interact rather than scroll through social media. Reading a book together, playing a board game or sharing details about the day all can boost family bonding once the screens are turned off.

1: Move for at least an hour a day.

Physical activity doesn’t have to mean participating in an organized sport or paying for a gym membership. For children, this can be as simple as playing outside, but the whole family can get involved. Take a walk together or go for a bike ride – just be sure everyone’s wearing a helmet.

0: Zero sugary drinks.

This can be difficult for Southerners who love their sweet tea, but sugar-sweetened beverages add unwanted calories, contribute to weight gain and can cause tooth decay. Instead, boost hydration with good old H2O.

If you miss the flavor that comes with a sugary drink, try adding fruit to your water pitcher to make an infused water – some options include strawberries, lemons, oranges and limes.

“These are things families can do together,” Moskowitz said. “When children see healthy behavior modeled by their parents, those habits are more likely to stick, and everyone is healthier!”