Back to school season is officially upon us! Whether you’re feeling like it came too fast or spent most of the summer feeling like it couldn’t come fast enough, back to school usually represents some type of shift in schedule for all of us.
During this season of transition, it’s important to maintain healthy habits- even when life seems to be getting out of control. For some, a school schedule actually means an increase in activity through extracurriculars, while others may be overwhelmed with homework and more stationary tasks. Regardless of where you and your family stand in the grand scheme of scheduling, I’m here to “school” you on a few tips to maintain a heart-healthy balance during the school year!
According to AHA, today’s children are growing up in a world where cardiovascular diseases claim more lives each year than all forms of cancer combined. That’s why one of the major aims of the AHA is to educate our younger generations on how to create a healthy environment that allows them to grow to their full potential! Let's talk about a few of the challenges our kids are facing.
The unsafe influence of smoking and e-cigarettes. Not only do these facts apply to young children, but teens as well. In a survey conducted by the AHA, more than 1 in 5 high school students report using an e-cigarette in the last month; a 78% increase from last year. Unfortunately, marketing hasn’t revealed the true consequences of using these products, and has even contributed to many youth believing that e-cigs and vape pens are harmless. This is a false belief! These products contain addictive nicotine, often at much higher levels than traditional cigarettes. Peer pressure is an active force in school environments, so be sure that your kids know the real truth about these dangerous products so that when they are inevitably faced with the decision of whether or not to join the growing number of youth using them, they are confident in refusing. Take a minute to get involved with the effort to raise the sales age of tobacco products to 21, right here!
Significant health risks connected to weight. Unfortunately, 1 in 5 children today are not at a healthy weight. This number has increased significantly over the past 30 years. In fact, children who are overweight from ages 7 to 13 are at increased risk of developing heart disease as early as their mid-twenties! Science has shown that there is a direct correlation between education and health. Therefore, educate and empower your children to take ownership of their health and future today! Encourage them to get involved with school and community programs that foster healthy habits, like the AHA’s Play 60 Initiative or Kid's Heart Challenge.
Lack of physical activity. With only 20% of children actually getting enough activity to meet AHA recommendations, risks of obesity, stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels are greatly increased in our youth. Furthermore, studies show that kids who have healthy levels of physical activity tend to have better grades, attendance, and behavior at school. That means that just 30 minutes a day of exercise can improve mental health and self-esteem levels in children, as well as decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.
Diets that are not reasonably healthy or nutritious to foster growth. What you eat matters- both physically and mentally! Our kids need food that fuels their brains just as much as it fuels their bodies, and this means cutting down on sodium and sugar. According to the AHA, more than 90% of school-age children consume excess sodium and sugar each day, contributing to high blood pressure and other health problems in the future. A lot of this excess is consumed through sugary drinks like soda. Everyone deserves access to clean water and healthy drink alternatives like milk, because they help foster growth and mental clarity much more than juices and sodas. Pack water bottles in school lunches, and find creative ways to be sure your kids get their daily servings of fruits and veggies! Oh, and you can take action on helping our kiddos eat healthy at school by clicking this link.
You can help make a difference in our kids’ lives by advocating for healthy environments and habits in their everyday routines. Most of all, encourage them to enjoy their adolescence, and to relax and play! Life has got to be about balance; and teaching them how to revel in their youth by staying active, fueling their bodies with nutritious foods, and avoiding unsafe and unhealthy products like cigarettes will result in success all around. In my opinion, healthy means happy- and that is just as essential for you as an adult as it is for your children! In the midst of your busy life, remember to take your own advice and embrace your inner youth with healthy habits. After all, we’re all kids at HEART!
Forever your Miss Wyoming 2017 & AHA Advocate,