Simplify Family Schedule to Decrease Stress, Boost Heart Health

As fall classes and after-school activities are in full swing, Missouri families can feel pressure to do it all, but the American Heart Association warned parents a nonstop lifestyle is not sustainable or healthy.

Dr. Peter Panagos, professor of emergency medicine and neurology at Washington University board chair of the American Heart Association-St. Louis, said packing too much into a week can be stressful, and week after week, chronic stress can lead to negative medical consequences, both for children and adults.

“Poor sleep hygiene, not sleeping as much as required, has impacts on your health, your wellness and your ability to concentrate and learn, which is really important for our kids,” Panagos outlined. “Stress can lead to us making poor health decisions, as far as the type of foods we ingest. We want to get the most easily accessible food and often, that is food highest in calories.”

The Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of daily physical activity, enough to increase your heart rate, to maintain a healthy heart. And there are five pillars to building healthy habits as a family: Panagos noted they are family “active time,” meal prep and meal planning, prioritizing activities, bedtime routines and the proper amount of rest.

Most people know decisions and habits they develop as children and young adults carry over into adulthood. So, Panagos advised it is time to help children build the healthiest possible habits.

“If we can develop healthy lifestyle practices for our kids as they grow into young adults, teenagers, they can see how we live by example, they will really mimic our healthy behaviors,” Panagos emphasized. “It doesn’t mean we have to change everything at once. We can set goals, take baby steps. Teach your kids about heart health, healthy diet. Ultimately, it’s going to help them live longer, healthier lives for their own future.”

The American Heart Association said it’s also important to take time for yourself, to decompress.

Disclosure: The American Heart Association of Missouri contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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