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Rachna Chhachhi

Rachna Chhachhi is a certified holistic cancer coach and a nutritional therapist. She works across 22 countries to treat patients for cancer, autoimmune and lifestyle related diseases.

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Your Kid’s Heart Health

If you have kids and you want them to grow up without cardiovascular disease, read on

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Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer on earth globally. It starts with people getting busy at work, not being able to spare time for a healthier lifestyle. Slowly, as we start ageing, the impact of this compromised lifestyle leads to hardening of arteries and cholesterol deposits, along with high blood pressure which can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Eating healthy requires you to spare time and commitment in a structured manner, and the support of your family. Now, there is enough data to push yourself to stay healthier because what and how you eat at home is also going to affect your child's future cardiovascular health. Evolving evidence shows that heart healthy habits in adults are rooted in early childhood, representing a window of opportunity in young children to focus on health and potentially prevent disease in adulthood, according to a review paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Modifiable risk factors in children and adolescents include smoking, obesity, physical activity and unhealthy diet, as well as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood glucose.  Out of all the kids cases that I get, I'm surprised to see many teenagers with high cholesterol, which is an alarming trend. Research has shown that children with unhealthy habits who adopt healthy habits before adulthood have similar health outcomes to those who were never unhealthy.

So how can you inculcate healthy living habits in your children so that they grow up healthy?

You eat with them. Having a balanced meal on the dinner table is 50% of the battle won. Include a large bowl of leafy green salad with loads of extra virgin olive oil, a complex carbohydrate like brown rice, quinoa, two kinds of vegetables that are not overcooked. One can be a curry or soupy form and the other can be a simple crunchy stirfry with lots of garlic. If you’re non-vegetarian, including pan-fry or grilled fish. And while you enjoy your dinner with your kids and family, don't forget to lighten the atmosphere with oodles of anecdotes and conversations that will help you and your kids reduce stress levels, leading to dissolving of cholesterol blocks inside the arteries.

Set a Monday to Friday schedule. If kids know what they are going to get, they start looking forward to it. And if kids know that they need to have a structure and follow discipline along with a carrot to binge on the weekend, they adhere to the weekdays discipline much more. So make a schedule of what they are going to get for tiffin everyday from Monday to Friday, and what you're going to get for lunch from Monday to Friday. Tell them they’re going to get a family cheat meal every weekend along with certain activities they enjoy thrown in, to entice them.

Play a sport with them. Whether it is early mornings or evenings, three times a week, choose a sport that you can play with your child. It will help you stay healthy, your kid healthier and the emotional bond between the two of you will help them become emotionally balanced adults. If you feel that you do not have more than one day in a week to spare, use one weekday and your Saturday and Sunday to schedule time with them.

Plan a learning activity. Teach them how to ride a bicycle, skate, drive, play chess,  play scrabble or any activity you think will be a team building. This will also give you time on the weekend to have conversations around healthier habits and risks of smoking, drugs and alcohol. When parents talk to children in an environment where they are teammates, the impact of the learning on the child is much higher.

You can start all these activities as early as the age of eight so they can grow up to be well-rounded healthy individuals. This will also help you stay healthy, and become that parent who builds happy memories. Isn't it a lovely thought to look forward to your child looking back at his or her childhood and saying: "My dad/mom was so much fun and I learned so much from them!"

Everything is worth that memory, isn't it?

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Kids healthcare