Published on in Health Tip of the Week
While physical health remains the most pressing concern related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the last two years have also significantly impacted the mental health of many individuals. Limited social interactions, challenges posed by virtual learning and the cancellation of many extracurricular activities, all threaten the mental well-being of developing children and teens.
Because adults who suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety or depression are more likely to have heart disease, it’s particularly important to keep an eye out for warning signs of mental health issues in children. Dietary and exercise habits are strongly dependent on one’s emotional well-being, so be sure to look out for potential habit-forming behavior which could adversely affect cardiovascular health in adulthood.
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Here are tips on how parents and caregivers can promote both mental and cardiovascular health and identify possible roadblocks:
- Get active and get outside: Exposure to daily sunlight is very important for emotional well-being and offers numerous physical health benefits. Even if you aren’t able to participate in team sports, being active and engaging in daily exercise is vital for both mental health and cardiovascular health. Finding fun ways to exercise together with kids will make it more fun, and you will set a great example for them.
- Keep the lines of communication open with your children: Whether it is at family dinner time or during your drive to school, take the time to listen to concerns that your children are expressing. Even an off-hand remark may raise a red flag about feelings of social isolation.
- Focus on your child’s eating habits: Both restrictive eating as well as binge eating could be signs of a mental health problem or eating disorder. If not addressed early, disordered eating will lead to longstanding unhealthy habits which adversely affect heart health.
- Take academic stress seriously: With the increasing academic demands in childhood, and the added pressure of virtual learning, kids may feel more stressed about their daily school routines. Even children who are doing well academically may feel anxiety due to a competitive school environment. Children who experience constant stress or fear of failure in school may suffer from lack of self-confidence. If you feel your child needs support, reach out to their teachers or a guidance counselor. Getting your child the help they need early can avoid an ongoing stressful situation.
- Schedule family activities: Having laughter in the home, eating meals together as a family, and enjoying relaxing activities together, such as playing games, doing crafts, or going for walks, can provide an oasis for children from the struggles of their daily lives.
If you sense your child may be suffering from anxiety, depression or any other concerning emotional state, you should seek medical attention early. Addressing mental and cardiovascular health issues in children can lead to healthier adults.