Teaching healthy habits at an early age is one of the best gifts to give a child. Healthy habits that take care of your heart are not only good for preventing heart disease, they also have other benefits such as preventing obesity and depression.

These are 10 small things you can add to your family’s routine to improve everyone’s heart health (from Healthbeat, www.health.harvard.edu):

  1. Take a 10-minute walk. If you don’t exercise at all, a brief walk is a great way to start. If you do, it’s a good way to add more exercise to your day.
  2. Give yourself a lift. Lifting a hardcover book or a two-pound weight a few times a day can help tone your arm muscles. When that becomes a breeze, move on to heavier items or join a gym.
  3. Eat one extra fruit or vegetable a day. Fruits and vegetables are inexpensive, taste good, and are good for everything from your brain to your bowels.
  4. Make breakfast count. Start the day with some fruit and a serving of whole grains, like oatmeal, bran flakes, or whole-wheat toast. Check out these cool ideas for healthy breakfast for kids at delish.com.
  5. Stop drinking your calories. Cutting out just one sugar-sweetened soda or calorie-laden latte can easily save you 100 or more calories a day. Over a year, that can translate into a 10-pound weight loss. Don’t just grab any fruit juice for your kids. Check out this article from Healthline.com about healthy drinks for kids.
  6. Have a handful of nuts. Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and other nuts are good for your heart. Try grabbing some instead of chips or cookies when you need a snack, adding them to salads for a healthful and tasty crunch, or using them in place of meat in pasta and other dishes. Nut allergies? Check out these high-protein snacks for kids from epicurious.com.
  7. Sample the fruits of the sea. Eat fish or other types of seafood instead of red meat once a week. It’s good for the heart, the brain, and the waistline.
  8. Breathe deeply. Try breathing slowly and deeply for a few minutes a day. It can help you relax. Slow, deep breathing may also help lower blood pressure.
  9. Wash your hands often. Scrubbing up with soap and water often during the day is a great way to protect your heart and health. The flu, pneumonia, and other infections can be very hard on the heart.
  10. Count your blessings. Taking a moment each day to acknowledge the blessings in your life is one way to start tapping into other positive emotions. These have been linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being, just as their opposites — chronic anger, worry, and hostility — contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.

If you would like your family to become a Fun, Fit, Family, we can help. The third Saturday of every month we hold events covering health topics with hands-on activities for kids and parents about fitness, eating habits, and stress management. We can also help track your family’s progress towards building a healthy life. Ask us how.