Farah Siddiqi, Producer
Friday, October 13, 2023
Heart disease is Michigan’s number one cause of death. This is the time of year that parents can step up their efforts to prevent it – in the next generation.
Studies indicate children as young as age 10 to 14 can show the early stages of plaque building in their arteries – a precursor to heart disease.
Michigan parents may wonder how they can lead their children by example towards heart healthy outcomes. Matt Johnson, communications director for the American Heart Association of West Michigan, said fall is a perfect time for family time and staying active together.
“Getting outside, taking a quick walk, a hike with the kiddos, kick the soccer ball around in the backyard,” he said, “whatever you can do to get moving more shows your kids that you’re invested in your physical health and they’ll follow your lead.”
In Michigan, almost 33% of children are overweight or obese, compared with a national average of more than 31%. Starting them on heart-healthy habits can reduce the chances they’ll ever need to worry about cardiovascular disease. For parents, that means modeling behaviors such as eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and not smoking.
Led by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, researchers around the state wrapped up a five-year study in 2016 funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Building Healthy Communities program examined childhood obesity rates and how to improve the outcomes through healthy foods and minds.
Jana Siminski, executive director of the American Heart Association of West Michigan, said all families can participate in mindfulness and self-care to improve their health.
“Work on ways to manage stress,” she said. “While it may be unrealistic to expect older kids to turn in early, have them turn off their phones and other devices prior to bedtime. Encourage them to develop their own rituals for a good night’s sleep.”
The Building Healthy Communities program has grown into a collaboration supported by 10 statewide organizations, affecting 180,000 students in 390 schools. Decreasing Michigan’s rate of childhood obesity prevents chronic diseases in adulthood, and also decreases the economic burdens associated with health-care costs and lost productivity for the state.