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Tracking Health Behaviors of Kids

Your Health is a FREE e-newsletter, which serves as your easy, smart link to the world-class experience of Dr. Mohamed Elmi. Dr. Elmi is the Director of the Baltimore Veterans Affair Medical Center and Director of the Maryland Office of Mental Health and Development. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County School of Medicine. In this newsletter, you will receive regular articles on everything pertaining to health, with a special emphasis on kids and teens. If you are interested in writing to Dr. Elmi or other members of the MD Family, send an e-mail to the editor using the instructions listed here.

In this issue: New research suggests that a diet lower in sodium may help prevent heart disease and stroke. We now know that there are certain foods, such as white bread and some chips, that contribute to our blood’s cholesterol levels. There are good news and bad news about the latest study. The bad news? The link between salty snacks and heart disease may be only a false link. The good news?

“The science behind kids’ heart health is clear: exercise and a low-fat diet are the key,” says pediatrician Dr. Helen K Barke. “But many kids and teens skip those steps, and when they do, it’s usually too late.” Parents can help kids live healthy and have a healthy weight by getting them started on a nutritious eating plan right from birth. With the new findings regarding the effects of a low-salt diet, parents may choose to include a salt reduction strategy at mealtime.

“The key to a healthy weight is a solid start in the right direction from the very beginning,” says pediatrician Dr. William Sears, editor-in-chief of “The Best Baby, Book and Child Book.” “This includes a strong emphasis on quality nutrition and taking care of yourself. By teaching kids how much to eat and when to eat, parents can increase their kids’ physical activity and curb their consumption of foods and snacks that are not part of their daily healthy menu choices.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommend that moms and dads begin planning a healthy weight management program for kids ages one to four.

The new study found that kids from families that practiced complete food control had lower body mass index (BMI) than kids from a food-control group that ate a lot of snacks. In addition, kids in the food-control group who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables also had a lower BMI than kids in the low-salt group. What’s more, kids in the food-control group who took part in physical activity on a regular basis had greater physical activity than kids in the control group who did not take part in physical activity. This suggests that kids from a food-control family can benefit from increased physical activity as they grow up.

This study is important because it helps parents and youth professionals (like teachers, pediatricians, etc.) understand why kids are less physically active, and can help youth professionals to encourage kids to become physically active through programs like First Visit, a national program that promotes kids’ physical activity. “What this study shows is that if you want to reduce obesity in kids, you have to think about portion sizes and nutrition,” says Dr. Alice Forward, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Boston, Mass. ” Nutrition and portion sizes matter.” Forward continues, “What we’ve learned from this study is that if kids are encouraged to increase their physical activity, and portion sizes are reduced, then they will be able to consume less calories and reduce their risk for obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.” For kids who already have health concerns, Eating Well Withdrawals can help them better withstand these diseases.

So what can parents and youth professionals do now? First, it’s important for parents to make sure their kids eat healthy on every single day and to make sure their kids get a daily dose of physical activity. Second, by getting the kids physically active on the first visit, parents show the youth professionals that healthy practices are important and that healthy habits are something the whole family can get involved with. And third, by making sure the entire family gets involved in the child’s health, the moms and dads and all the children will benefit from increased physical activity, reduced calories, and improved nutrition. All of these improvements to kids’ health and nutrition could end up having a significant impact on the rest of the family, as well.

After reading this article, you may be more inspired to support your kids’ health and fitness needs by setting up a weekly family gym class. Or maybe you’ll find this news article to be the motivation you need to start jogging with your kids and join a walking group. Remember that it’s never too early to start improving your kids’ health. In fact, the earlier you start, the better! There’s nothing that motivates health and wellness more than a little daily physical activity, so go for it today!