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HEALTHY LIVING

Build heart-healthy behaviors for preschoolers at home

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(Family Features) A pressing concern like a global pandemic can quickly overshadow other important health challenges facing families. One is the issue of childhood obesity, a problem the slower pace of life brought on by COVID-19 could exacerbate.

Numerous cardiovascular and mental health risks are associated with childhood obesity, and many experts expect to see increases in both mental health challenges and obesity as a result of COVID-19.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity impacts 40% of children between the ages of 2-5, increasing their risk for type 2 diabetes, asthma and depression.

Data from a study published in the “Early Childhood Education Journal” from the American Heart Association shows children diagnosed as overweight between 7-13 years old may develop heart disease as early as age 25. However, preventative steps taken in early childhood can help reduce this risk.

Keeping young children healthy while at home during the pandemic requires extra attention to their nutrition, physical activity and screen time. Programs like the American Heart Association’s Healthy Way to Grow, a national, science-based, early childhood technical assistance program, provide educational resources to help communities, educators and caregivers improve practices and policies for obesity prevention.

These tips from the program can help early childhood professionals and caregivers promote best practices into the daily lives of children.

Nutrition

Less than 1% of children have ideal diets, and under 10% have reasonably healthy diets, according to the American Heart Association. On any given day, 27% of 2- and 3-year-olds don’t eat a vegetable; among those who do, fried potatoes, which are high in fat and lower in nutrients, are most common. In fact, data shows kids eat less nutritious foods up to age 19.

Children should consume a variety of foods daily, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairies, lean vegetable or animal protein and fish. At the same time, kids should minimize trans fats, processed meats, refined carbohydrates and sweetened beverages.

Consistently timed meals and pairing new foods with choices they already enjoy are two ways to help form healthier habits. Be aware that healthy choices should apply throughout the day, not only for meals but also snacks and beverages. Eating together as a family provides an opportunity to model healthy eating and encourage children to try new foods. Also make water available and accessible to children throughout the day.

For infants, feeding provides nutrition for their physical and mental growth. Healthy babies usually double their birth weight between 4-5 months of age. Infants and children with congenital heart disease and congestive heart failure or cyanosis (blueness) tend to gain weight slower. An 8-ounce-1-pound gain in a month may be an acceptable weight gain for a baby with a heart defect.

Physical Activity

Only about 20% of kids perform enough activity to meet physical activity recommendations. Whether you’re working with children in a childcare setting or at home, look for ways to incorporate lesson plans that offer learning experiences about healthy eating and physical activity, and ensure the daily schedule includes ample active playtime.

The Healthy Way to Grow program recommends all children, including infants, have at least two outdoor active playtimes daily, weather and air quality permitting. Toddlers should engage in 60-90 minutes while 120 minutes of daily active play is recommended for preschoolers. Half the time should be structured and led by a teacher or caregiver while the remaining playtime should be unstructured and up to the child.

Learn more about protecting the health and wellness of children in your home and community at healthywaytogrow.org.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

SOURCE:
American Heart Association

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HEALTHY LIVING

Tips to maintain your skin’s health

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(Family Features) Your skin is your first line of defense against the outer world. As the body’s largest organ, it protects you from bacteria, viruses and other environmental hazards, including pollution, ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and more. It also helps regulate body temperature, recognizes pain sensations and alerts you to potential health problems, making it one of the body’s ultimate multitaskers.

While some factors that impact your skin – like genetics, aging, hormones and certain health conditions – are out of your control, there are steps you can take to support and maintain your skin’s health.

Protect Yourself from the Sun
No matter the season, exposure to UV rays from the sun can cause wrinkles, age spots and other types of damage, which could lead to skin cancer. To protect your skin from these harmful rays, use topical sunscreen daily with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 – even when it’s overcast – and reapply regularly.

Boost Your Diet with Antioxidants
A well-balanced diet consisting of plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains is an important part of maintaining healthy skin. However, diet alone isn’t always enough.

Many dermatologists recommend Heliocare Daily Use Antioxidant Formula as an oral dietary supplement. It contains Fernblock PLE technology, an exclusive plant extract rich in antioxidant properties that works to counteract the negative effects of free radicals, which are unstable atoms generated through everyday life that can damage skin cells. Free radical damage can cause wrinkles, discoloration and other signs of environmental aging. Taking a supplement daily, like Heliocare, can enhance antioxidant intake to help maintain skin health. Plus, it serves as a companion to topical SPF.

Keep Skin Moisturized
Daily use of a face and body moisturizer can help maintain a healthier skin barrier. This helps draw moisture to your skin from the air and lock it in. For best results and optimal hydration, moisturize within minutes of drying off after bathing to trap in moisture. Also remember to drink plenty of water, which can help keep skin hydrated, too.

Reduce Stress
Uncontrolled stress can trigger the release of hormones that dull skin and cause it to produce more oil, which can result in breakouts and other skin problems. To encourage clearer, healthier skin, take steps to reduce stress such as scaling back your to-do list, setting reasonable limits, making time for things you enjoy or trying a stress-reduction technique like yoga, meditation or tai chi.

Wear Protective Clothing
In addition to topical SPF, covering skin as opposed to leaving it exposed to the elements can protect from sun damage. When UV rays are at their peak, typically in the middle of the day, consider wearing long sleeves, pants and a large-brimmed hat.

Get a Good Night’s Rest
During sleep, your body repairs itself and regenerates skin cells. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night, during which time the body produces higher levels of collagen, a protein that supports healthier looking (and functioning) skin. Lack of sleep and collagen loss go hand in hand.

Learn more about skin, antioxidants and free radical damage at heliocare.com.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
Heliocare

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HEALTHY LIVING

Spilling the secrets to early literacy

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(Family Features) For young children, learning to read is a critical step in their educational journeys, as literacy helps build cognitive abilities and language proficiency and has a direct impact on later academic achievement.

While there are no shortcuts to early literacy, there are steps parents can take to promote the development of children’s reading abilities. Dr. Lauren Loquasto, senior vice president and chief academic officer at The Goddard School, and Steve Metzger, award-winning author of more than 70 children’s books, share this guidance for parents.

Get Started Early
It’s never too early to start reading with children. In fact, they respond to being read to prenatally. One of the best ways to encourage early literacy is modeling the act of reading. Young children love to imitate, and if they see their parents reading, they are more likely to want to read themselves. Instead of scrolling on your phone or watching television while your children play, pick up a book or magazine.

Use Conversation to Build Literacy
To help build their vocabularies, consistently engage children in conversation. Literacy is more than reading and writing; it’s also listening and speaking. Children understand words before they can articulate them, so don’t be discouraged if it feels like a one-way conversation.

Expose Children to More Than Books
Make your home environment print-rich, as the more exposure children have to letters and words, the better. For example, keep magnetic letters and words on the fridge, put labels on your toy containers and position books and magazines in different rooms. Also remember reading isn’t limited to books. Words are everywhere, from street signs to restaurant menus. Take advantage of every opportunity to connect with your children through words throughout your day.

Let Them Take the Lead
Children engage with books in different, developmentally appropriate ways. Some children quickly flip through pages or only look at pictures while others might make up stories or their own words or songs. Some only want to read the same book over and over and some want to read a new book every time. Embrace and encourage their interest in books, no matter how they choose to use them.

Establish a Routine
Parents of young children often have busy and hectic lives, so it isn’t always easy to find time to read. Consistency is key, so be intentional about setting aside time for reading every day – perhaps it’s after dinner or before bedtime – and stick to it.

Select the Right Books
Helping young children choose books is an important part of their learning-to-read process. Developmental appropriateness is critical. For infants and toddlers, start with nursery rhymes, which are mini-stories that grasp children’s attention through repetition, rhythm and rhyming. Visuals are also important because they aren’t yet pulling words off the page. For emerging readers, choose books that align with their interests. Focus on books that are printed with text that goes from left to right and top to bottom.

Expose children to both fiction and non-fiction books. Non-fiction provides real-world knowledge children crave and helps them make sense of what they read in fictional stories. For example, the learnings about the life cycle of a bat they read in “Bat Loves the Night,” a non-fiction book, can help them better understand what’s happening in “Stellaluna,” a fiction book about a young bat.

If you’re in doubt about book choices, consult with a teacher or librarian, who can make recommendations based on your children’s interests and reading levels.

Foster a Love of Reading
Children’s early exposure to books can set the stage for a lifetime of reading. Make reading a time for discovery. Take children to a library or bookstore and encourage them to explore and find books on their own. Display genuine interest in their selections and use books as a tool for engaging and connecting with them. Don’t pressure children to learn how to read. Accept, validate and encourage them as they progress on their unique literacy journeys.

To watch a webinar recording featuring Loquasto and Metzger providing additional literacy guidance and recommendations, and access a wealth of actionable parenting insights and resources, visit the Parent Resource Center at GoddardSchool.com.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
The Goddard School

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HEALTHY LIVING

Breathe better with asthma, wherever you are

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(Family Features) If you have asthma, you know that symptoms can come on quickly, then worsen.

The things that make them do that are called triggers. An important part of managing asthma is knowing your triggers at home, work, school or while you’re outdoors.

A health care provider can help you figure that out, then you can take steps to avoid those triggers and breathe easier.

At Home
Because asthma is usually due to allergies, triggers are often allergens, or things that cause allergic reactions. Allergens such as pet dander, dust mites, pests and smoke can make asthma symptoms worse in some people, and for others, even trigger an asthma attack.  

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) suggests that it may be helpful to combine a few different strategies to help reduce exposure to triggers.

People sensitive to dust can clean with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration vacuum and use mattress and pillow covers that prevent exposure to dust mites. If you’re sensitive to pests like cockroaches and rodents, consider integrated pest management, which involves removing and controlling pests through methods such as traps or poison. Avoiding tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke, can be especially helpful for some people with asthma.

At School
Asthma is one of the leading reasons children miss school. At school, kids may be exposed to dust mites, pests and mold, which may be asthma triggers for some children.

Because children spend lots of time at school, it can be helpful for teachers, school nurses or coaches to know what to do if your child’s symptoms flare up. Team up with a health care provider to develop an asthma action plan and share it with trusted adults at your child’s school.

At Work
The workplace can have hundreds of potential triggers, like chlorine-based cleaning products, bleaches, hair dyes and metal dust. Repeated exposures in the workplace can also lead to new triggers. Report new or worsening symptoms that occur at work to your health care provider and your workplace supervisor.

Outdoors
Everyday weather like cold, dry air can set off breathing problems. Air pollution can affect asthma, too.

It may be helpful to avoid some of the worst pollution by adjusting when and where you exercise. Try to avoid exercising near busy roads or industrial areas. Visit airnow.gov to check your local air quality so you can plan to avoid outdoor activities when pollution is highest.

Managing your triggers is just one part of keeping your asthma under control. Work with a health care provider to develop an asthma treatment plan that includes taking medicines as prescribed and keeping track of your symptoms and where you are when they occur. That way, you can know what’s making your asthma worse or better.

To learn more about asthma, visit NHLBI’s Learn More Breathe Better® program at nhlbi.nih.gov/BreatheBetter.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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