When we think of children’s health problems, we often consider colds, fevers or other temporary illnesses. But more serious issues are on the rise in children including diabetes and high blood pressure, which experts say often goes unnoticed. According to a recent article in The New York Times, both parents and doctors require more awareness about high blood pressure in children and its potentially serious consequences, such as permanent organ damage.
Unfortunately, high blood pressure in kids isn’t as rare as one might think. A recent study of middle school and high school athletes in Philadelphia found that almost 15 percent of the athletes had high blood pressure, The NYT reports. Parents should not only be informed about this often-undetected problem, but they should also take action to prevent and treat it.
Here, we offer a few tips on how to combat chronic illness in kids, like high blood pressure.
A major factor in the high blood pressure epidemic is linked to how sedentary we are. Like adults, children are now glued to smartphones, laptops and tablets. Encourage your children to go outside to get some fresh air and exercise. Take family walks, or walk to school with them if it’s close enough. You can also enroll your kids in ballet, swim, soccer or any other physical activity that they might enjoy. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of cardio into their day for a healthy heart!
Catch some Zzz’s.
Chronic sleep deprivation has been associated with high blood pressure and heart disease (see our additional heart-healthy tips here), so make sure your children avoid electronics at night, which can stimulate their systems. Consider implementing tech-free hours beginning at dinnertime to help ease into a relaxing evening. It also may be helpful to try to keep a consistent bedtime schedule so they can fall asleep easily.
Try the DASH diet.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) advises going on the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) to help lower blood pressure. This eating plan includes ample fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts. This diet is also low in sodium, sweets, fats and red meat. The NHLBI’s typical meal plan for the day could include oatmeal for breakfast, a chicken breast sandwich for lunch and whole grain spaghetti with a salad for dinner. For snacks, try yogurt and a handful of nuts. Of course, this isn’t the only diet to prevent and treat hypertension, but it offers an easy outline In general, a whole-foods based plant-rich diet will help lower blood pressure levels.
Keep things positive.
Encourage positive attitudes in the household, as research shows this can help lower the chance of heart disease. According to a University of Kansas study, smiling (even fake smiling!) helps to reduce blood pressure during stressful situations. So even on those tough days, find something to laugh about!
What are your best tips for reducing blood pressure? Let us know here.