Heart Healthy Practices for Children

Randall Children's Hospital
Children’s Heart Center at Randall Children’s Hospital
February 28, 2018
Baby doctor stethoscope PCCO (STOCK PHOTO)
An Oregon pediatric cardiology program that works for you: PCCO
October 1, 2018

Many parents no doubt ask themselves what they can do to ensure their child lives a long, happy and healthy life. And if you’re the parent of a child born with a congenital heart disease (CHD), you may be wondering how to keep your child’s heart healthy.

Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to incorporate heart-healthy daily practices into your child’s life. We’ve listed a few below.

But first, it’s important to speak with your child’s cardiologist in order to determine the best course of action. You can also contact the Pediatric Cardiology Center of Oregon if you have any questions. If your child has been diagnosed with a heart defect, call us at 503-280-3418. Our caring staff is here for you.

How to Keep Your Child’s Heart Healthy

Make sure your child gets enough sleep

A healthy sleep regimen means going to sleep at the same time of night and waking up at the same time of day — every day, including weekends and holidays. It’s also a Sleeping childgood idea to limit the child’s use of electronic devices within an hour or so before bedtime. Consider installing blackout curtains in the child’s bedrooms; this is especially useful here in the Pacific Northwest, when summer bedtimes may occur before the sun has set.

Feed them a healthy diet

Like most of the items on this list, eating a healthy diet is good advice for everyone, not just children. The key is to start kids early on a low-sugar diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins so that they’ll develop habits that last a lifetime. These foods in their proper portions will help your child maintain a healthy weight and a stable metabolism. And, of course, make sure they drink enough water.

You might also consider supplementing your child’s diet with healthy fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6 and limiting your child’s consumption of energy drinks.

Let them play sports — but get a physical first

Most children with congenital heart disease can play sports without any negative health repercussions. It’s important that your child remain active. Plus, playing on sports teams enhances a child’s sense of belonging and confidence, and it also encourages proper social development.

But first, be sure your child is given a sports exam or physical prior to engaging in strenuous cardio exercises. A doctor will examine your child for any abnormalities that might prove unsafe for active children. For example, a doctor might diagnose a heart murmur, which could possibly rule out intense physical exercise.

Some physical activities, including endurance sports, may be a good choice for a child with CHD. For instance, swimming, running, cycling, rowing, cross-country skiing and tennis may all be good choices.

Bottom line: Children with heart disease need exercise. Find out what your child loves to do, and let them do it!

Teach your child to practice stress management techniques

Child doing yogaWe usually tend to think of yoga, meditation and deep-breathing exercises as something that only stressed-out adults need to do. But these ancient practices can do wonders for children, especially those who must take extra care of themselves due to CHD.

There are plenty of resources out there that can help you and your child find which combination of stress management activities is right for them.

Practice these techniques — as well as those listed above — alongside your child, and you’ll be well on your way to ensuring that they develop habits to keep them informed, engaged, strong, vital and healthy for the rest of their lives.

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