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How to Improve Cardiovascular Health for the Family

Posted by DaVinci Healthcare Expert on Feb 15, 2022 4:01:32 PM

heart health for the family

Whether you have a family history of heart problems or are looking to support long-term heart health, focusing on specific diet and lifestyle interventions is critical for your family’s health.

Contrary to the once-popular belief that a low-fat diet is heart-healthy, dietary fats are not the root cause of cholesterol imbalances, lipid levels, or poor heart health. In fact, high-quality fats in the diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, and supporting a healthy weight are foundational to overall wellness.

Thankfully, most of the same heart-healthy diet and lifestyle interventions that work for adults also work for children of all ages to maintain optimal cardiovascular function.

Four Key Strategies to Improve Your Family's Cardiovascular Health

The following four strategies can be adapted to family members of every age.

What role does homocysteine play in your heart health? Read our white paper  for answers. 

stay active

Movement is crucial for cardiovascular health in both children and adults. Research shows that adults should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity, which breaks down to roughly 22 minutes per day. Children can participate in sports, outdoor play with family or friends, or other forms of exercise. A sedentary lifestyle decreases blood flow to the limbs and promotes the weakening of the heart muscle.[1]

manage stress in age-appropriate ways

Stress manifests in a wide variety of ways, and it is a major contributor to cardiovascular issues in both kids and adults. Stress can impact blood pressure, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease.

Stress management can dramatically vary depending on an individual’s age and preferences. Adults might do well with activities like meditation, yoga, an Epsom salt bath, and regular time to connect with friends. Children often need unstructured playtime, relaxing quality time with parents or caregivers, and plenty of time outdoors.

related content: How to promote self-care for kids and teens

get adequate sleep

The role of adequate sleep in cardiovascular health cannot be overestimated. Studies show sleep has a profound impact on weight loss, especially excess abdominal adiposity, blood sugar and blood pressure imbalances, and heightened inflammatory markers, all of which contribute to cardiovascular problems.[2]

Implementing regular bedtimes with your children to ensure they get enough sleep for their age and personal needs is vital. Research shows that adults thrive on a minimum of seven hours per night for optimal heart health and overall wellness.

support a healthy weight

More than two in three adults living in the US are overweight or obese, both of which act as accomplices to cardiovascular problems. In addition, an increasing number of children struggle with weight management.[3]

When the heart fails, it is unable to meet the body’s demands. One theory of why an unhealthy weight impacts heart health is an enzyme called troponin, released by injured heart muscle cells and found to be much higher in those who are overweight or obese. The more extra weight an individual has on their body, the higher their potential risk of heart problems.

nine Heart-healthy foods for the whole family

Along with lifestyle modifications and striving for a healthy weight, heart-healthy foods woven into your family’s daily diet are essential to cardiovascular wellness.

wild salmon and other fatty fish

Salmon is a fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids that is shown to promotes a healthy heart rate.* It also has a positive effect on blood lipid levels and balanced cholesterol.*[4]

avocado

Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, and kids tend to love them. Make guacamole or add them as a side to any dish your family enjoys.

seeds

Seeds such as chia, flax, and hemp are great sources of cardiovascular supportive nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber*.

fermented foods

Many cultures worldwide regularly eat fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kombucha tea. Widely known to support digestion and immune health, the probiotic bacteria in fermented foods might also support blood pressure within normal ranges and help with weight management.*

berries

Blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are packed full of antioxidants like anthocyanins, which are known to protect the heart against oxidative stress.*[5]

pomegranate

Also rich in antioxidants, pomegranate seeds might help to support normal blood pressure*. Their vibrant color and sweet taste also make them appealing to children.

green tea

Adults and teens can enjoy the many benefits of green tea, including the way it boosts the health of cells lining the blood vessels.

leafy greens

Greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, and Swiss chard are rich in vitamin K, supporting proper blood clotting*. These dark, leafy vegetables are also a rich source of nitrates, which could help with blood pressure and arterial stiffness.[6]

extra virgin olive oil

Olive oil is long-known for its cardiovascular benefits, mainly due to its high content of oleic acid and antioxidants shown to promote heart health.*[7]

foods to avoid for a healthy heart

Along with focusing on heart-healthy foods, it’s essential to avoid or reduce foods that can have the opposite effect. The main culprits include refined sugar and grains (like white flour), processed vegetable oils, soda, sugar-sweetened juice, and alcohol. As a parent, try your best to maintain a balanced diet of heart-healthy foods at home, which leaves a little leeway for birthday parties and other events where you can’t control the food choices.

final thoughts

A focus on cardiovascular health for the entire family is ideal for preventing future health issues and getting your children the nutrition their growing bodies need to thrive. By taking steps to get plenty of exercise, eat a balanced diet, find age-appropriate ways to manage stress, and sleep well, you’ll keep your family on track for optimal heart health and wellness.

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[1] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.312669

[2] Quist JS, Sjödin A, Chaput JP, Hjorth MF. Sleep and cardiometabolic risk in children and adolescents. Sleep Med Rev. 2016;29:76-100. doi:1016/j.smrv.2015.09.001

[3] https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity?dkrd=hispt0880

[4] Jain AP, Aggarwal KK, Zhang PY. Omega-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015;19(3):441-5. PMID: 25720716.

[5] Zafra-Stone S, Yasmin T, Bagchi M, Chatterjee A, Vinson JA, Bagchi D. Berry anthocyanins as novel antioxidants in human health…”. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2007 Jun;51(6):675-83. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200700002. PMID: 17533652.

[6] Kapil, V., Khambata, R. S., Robertson, A., Caulfield, M. J., & Ahluwalia, A. (2015). Dietary nitrate provides sustained blood pressure lowering in hypertensive patients: a randomized, phase 2, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Hypertension (Dallas, Tex. : 1979), 65(2), 320–327. https://doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.114.04675

[7] Massaro M, Scoditti E, Carluccio MA, Calabriso N, Santarpino G, Verri T, De Caterina R. Effects of Olive Oil on Blood Pressure: Epidemiological, Clinical, and Mechanistic Evidence. Nutrients. 2020 May 26;12(6):1548. doi: 10.3390/nu12061548. PMID: 32466599; PMCID: PMC7352724.

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