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The Healthy Heart Handbook for Women

A Family Plan for Heart Health

When it comes to heart health, what's good for you is good for your whole family—including its youngest members. We now know that two-thirds of teenagers have at least one risk factor for heart disease, from overweight and "couch potato-itis" to unhealthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Even more disturbing, about 1 million U.S. teens have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that greatly increases the risk of a later heart attack. By teaching your children, grandchildren, or other young family members the importance of eating well and getting regular physical activity, you'll help them develop healthy habits for a lifetime. Here are some ways to get started:

Set a good example. Adults have a big influence on children's and teens' behavior—even though kids may not want to admit it! If you follow a healthy lifestyle, younger family members will be more likely to do the same. Let them see you eating nutritious snacks and enjoying outdoor activities. Invite them to join you.

Raise "kitchen kids." Show young children how to clean fruits and veggies and combine them into salads. When they are old enough, teach them to use the cooktop, oven, microwave, and toaster safely. Show teens how to make simple, healthy dishes, such as pasta with vegetables and broiled chicken or fish. Children who have basic cooking skills appreciate food more and are more likely to try new dishes.

Get them moving. Encourage your kids or grandkids to get some exercise throughout the day and especially on weekends. Go on outings with them that involve activities such as hiking, swimming, or bicycling. Walk, bike, or jog with them to places close by. Use your backyard or local park for basketball, baseball, football, badminton, or volleyball.

Table of Contents Next: An Action Plan for Heart Health

Last Updated: February 29, 2012

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