Expert / 3 May, 2024 / My Baba

Easy Steps For Parents To Support Children’s Heart Health

As a parent, your child’s well-being is a priority. While we pay close attention to their growth and development, we might not always give enough focus to their heart health.

Here, we will explore simple yet effective ways for parents to ensure their children grow up with strong and healthy hearts. We will also discuss common heart issues and the signs to watch out for along the way.

Understanding Common Heart Health Issues in Children:

Children might have trouble explaining how they feel or talking about health problems clearly, which is why it’s important that parents are aware of symptoms that might signal potential heart issues in children. These could include things such as frequent nighttime awakenings, difficulty breathing while sleeping, persistent snoring, chest pain during physical activity, shortness of breath, palpitations with sudden dizziness, feeling faint during exercise, chest discomfort during outdoor games, and excessive tiredness after being active.

While those symptoms can sometimes indicate heart issues in young people, some children can have underlying heart defects which present with minimal symptoms. Congenital heart defects
ie a heart defect from birth, may only be detected by the finding of a heart murmur during heart examination. Conditions such as a hole in the heart may go undetected for many years as a consequence.

Other conditions which can have an impact on a child’s heart health are those that occur as an immune response to viral or bacterial illnesses, such as Kawasaki disease or rheumatic fever.

These conditions might present with symptoms such as poor weight gain, difficulty feeding, blue tint to the skin, rapid breathing, or swelling in the legs, abdomen, or around the eyes. It is essential
for parents to be aware of these signs and seek medical attention if they notice them in their child.

Promoting a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle:

  • Nutritious Diet: Encourage your children to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods provide essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which strengthen heart function. For example, swap sugary snacks for fresh fruits, and include colourful vegetables in meals to make them more appealing.
  • Encouraging Physical Activity: Regular exercise is crucial for a healthy heart. Engage your children in physical activities that strengthen their heart muscles, and improve circulation, especially in their younger years where the heart is still developing. Activities like playing sports, riding bikes, or swimming are excellent examples.
  • Prioritising Quality Sleep: Make sure your children get enough sleep each night. During sleep, their hearts undergo essential repair and rejuvenation, ensuring optimal function. Children who sleep well have lower stress hormone levels, improved blood pressure, and better overall heart health. Establish a consistent bedtime routine and create a comfortable sleep environment free from distractions like screens or electronics.
  • Managing Stress: Teach your children stress management techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, or yoga. Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure in long term and other heart issues, so it’s crucial to help children develop healthy coping mechanisms from an early age. Encourage open communication and create a supportive environment where children feel comfortable expressing their feelings.

Easy Steps for Parents to Support Children’s Heart Health by Dr Martin Lowe, Consultant Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist at The Harley Street Clinic and Portland Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK

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