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Resolution 1 for 2012: get the kids healthier (and you, too)

January 4, 2012
By

A sobering new study about teens’ threatened hearts hit us YOU Docs hard. If there are young VIPs in your life, it will rock you, too. Today’s teens are developing heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes at a younger age than any generation before them. After 40 years of improvements in heart health in North America, they’re likely to live shorter lives than their parents.

There’s no way to sugar coat this. More than 70 per cent of teens studied already had one or more of these red flags: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides (a menacing blood fat), low levels of healthy HDL cholesterol, lots of excess pounds.

How did kids’ health problems get so big? Blame the four Ss:

 •  Sugary drinks and snacks: About 30 per cent of teens’ daily calories now come from them.

 •  Salt: Kids eat more blood pressure-boosting sodium than any other age group.

 •  Skipping the good stuff: Only about 20 per cent eat five servings of fruit and veggies a day or enough whole grains.

 •  Sitting around (usually staring at screens): Just 20 per cent of teens get an hour of physical activity per day, the minimum for good health.

“OK, YOU Docs,” we hear you saying, “What can I do?” Truth is, we know what really keeps kids’ hearts healthy. Not lectures and weigh-ins. (Whew.) Kids click with what YOU do, not with what you say. Don’t shame them about their weight or waist size, ever. Focus on positives and their health. Walk the walk, and start with the basics:

1. Get every kid’s cholesterol checked (yours, too). Heart-health experts now recommend that all kids have a cholesterol test between nine and 11, and again between 17 and 21. Out-of-whack numbers — total cholesterol over 189, LDLs over 119, triglycerides over 114, healthy HDLs below 45 — mean it’s time for the whole family to eat smarter and move more. Few kids need cholesterol-lowering medications.

2. Know your kid’s blood pressure (your own, too). Healthy blood pressure numbers vary with a child’s age; your pediatrician can tell you if your child’s are fine or need help. It’s the rare kid who needs drugs for this problem, too, but knowing your child’s blood pressure lets you know whether it’s time for a lifestyle YOU-turn at home.

3. Change your menu. Today. Don’t wait for a test. Few teens get even half the cholesterol-lowering fibre they need. Serving up more fibre-rich fruit, veggies and whole grains is a great place to start. Toss walnuts and raisins on oatmeal or Cheerios, keep apples and oranges on the counter, make sandwiches with 100 per cent whole-wheat bread, sprinkle veggies with almonds at dinner and buy whole-wheat pasta. Serve water, nonfat milk or iced tea instead of sugary soft drinks. Lead the way.

4. Downshift on pizza and other teen salt bombs. The single largest source of sodium in teen diets is pizza, so make it a once-a-month treat — and start with a big salad so a couple of slices fill them up. Cutting back on salt now will cut your teens’ risk for high blood pressure later by 63 per cent. Got a kid who loves to cook? Try making 100 per cent whole-wheat pizza together with low-salt sauce and tons of vegetables.

5. Turn off the TV and get moving. Play back-yard soccer, hit the playground, go skating or break out Wii Fit or a dance-along video (get ready to sweat!). Simply cutting your family’s staring-at-TV time in half will help everyone burn calories and build muscle (and body confidence).

6. Put some experts (us!) in your corner. Give kids our just-for-them book, YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens. It’s written in kidspeak. Find tips at HealthCorps.com, a program started by Dr. Oz and his wife, Lisa, to fight childhood obesity. Turn your kid onto teen DailyStrength at teen.sharecare.com, a site we’ve developed that supports teens trying to make healthy choices. There’s a grown-up version, too. Just in case.

The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of The Dr. Oz Show and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of YOU: Losing Weight. RealAge.com

Article source: http://www.thespec.com/living/healthfitness/article/648619--resolution-1-for-2012-get-the-kids-healthier-and-you-too

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