Avery Stroke Patient, Basketball Player Did you know that cardiovascular health and mental health are intertwined? Adults who suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety or depression are more likely to have heart disease, and dietary and exercise habits are strongly dependent on one’s emotional well-being. This is why it’s important to look for warning signs of mental health issues in children and look for potential habit-forming behavior which could adversely affect their cardiovascular health.

Here are tips on how parents and caregivers can promote both cardiovascular and mental 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. 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. An off-hand remark from a teenager about “not being invited somewhere” could 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, 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. Getting them the help they need early can avoid an ongoing stressful situation. If you sense that your child is upset by being isolated from their peers, talk to teachers and guidance counselors to get a sense of the school climate. Identify any potential bullying and work with the school to find a solution, if possible.
  • 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. Family activities can extend beyond your home, too. Get involved in the community to help children feel more socially connected. Feelings of social isolation can sometimes increase feelings of depression and anxiety.

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.

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