While it might seem rather premature to be concerned about our kids 'staying young', it's no secret that healthy habits adopted in childhood pave the way to healthy adulthood. Yet there are some areas of children's health that get less attention than others but are just as important in preparing kids to be able-bodied grown-ups.
For example, most children are born with healthy hearts, and thus heart care is most often perceived as an exclusively adult concern. However, a 2015 study by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that taking care of one's heart should begin in adolescence, more or less from the age of 12. (1) That is why physical activity and a proper diet are no less important for children than they are for adults in maintaining healthy hearts. Particular attention should be paid to snack foods and drinks targeted to children, as they often contain high levels of sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats.
Another area that is overlooked in children's health is eyesight. In the UK, 70% of children get their teeth checked annually, while only 25% get their eyes examined.
(2) Parents can safeguard their children's eyesight by having their eyes checked regularly by an optometrist, as well as by making sure they get enough of the nutrients that promote good eye health, such as Omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants such as vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, zinc, lutein and selenium. (3) Healthy eyes improve children's quality of life and can positively impact their school performance.
Getting sick is a normal part of being a kid. In fact, it's how their bodies learn to protect themselves from germs and viruses. Parents can do a lot to support their children's natural defences such as encouraging appropriate amounts of sleep and exercise, serving nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, and restricting unnecessary antibiotics. Breastfeeding babies benefits their immune systems by passing on the mother's antibodies, enzymes and white blood cells. In colder months when there's less sunlight and kids tend to be more susceptible to illnesses, the old Scandinavian remedy of cod liver oil can be beneficial to a normal function of the immune system, due to its richness in vitamins A and D, as well as Omega-3 fatty acids.
Healthy hearts, eyes and immune systems are just three examples of how parents can preserve their children's physical (and as a result, mental) youthfulness. After all, it's the healthy habits you instill in them today which set them up for a healthy future.
(1) Veronica Hackethal, MD, "Heart Health Begins to Decline in Childhood", Medscape, 24 March 2015. Available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/841931
(2) James Gilchrist and Brendan Barrett, "Why Parents Remember Dental Checks for Children But Overlook Eye Tests", The Conversation, 29 September 2014. Available at: http://theconversation.com/why-parents-remember-dental-checks-for-children-but-overlook-eye-tests-32080
(3) Gary Heitiing, OD, "Nutrition for Healthy Eyes" All About Vision, August 2014. Available at: http://www.allaboutvision.com/nutrition/nutrition_summary.htm
Did you know ?
The family that eats together stays healthy together. When families sit down together for a meal, there’s more control over what children eat and less of a chance that they will snack on unhealthy foods. Furthermore, involving children in cooking and planning meals ensures they develop good eating habits.
When eating a meal with children at home, keep the television turned off. Eating with a TV on or in front of a TV not only kills conversation at mealtime, but also makes it easier to overeat, because we're less likely to notice we're full.
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