Heart Association challenges families

Published 10:19 am Thursday, September 3, 2015

September is the perfect month to stop bad habits and start thinking healthy.

The American Heart Association is challenging families to start healthy habits for September’s Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The Life is Why Family Health Challenge is a four-week quest for families to eat better and exercise more.

“This challenge that we’ve issued through the American Heart Association is to encourage families and parents to implement or start integrating these healthy habits into their lifestyles,” said Christopher Mims, American Heart Association communications director in Jackson.

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The challenge was created to raise awareness of childhood obesity.

“Obesity is one of the number one risk factors to heart disease,” Mims said. “We’re finding that now more and more teenagers are being diagnosed with high blood pressure and we know that’s because a lot of them are obese and overweight.”

He said one out of three children and teens in America are considered overweight or obese.

“Actually, the prevalence of obesity in children has more than tripled since 1971,” Mims said. “With childhood obesity comes a wide-range of health problems including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, physiological impacts such as depression and negative body image.”

Week one, called My Cart is Why, kicked off Tuesday to get families eating more fruits and vegetables.

Week two is called My Glass is Why and asks participants to reduce their intake of sugary beverages and replace them with better options.

My Taste is Why is the third week, which pushes families to consume less sodium.

“Sodium consumption is at an all-time high in America. Too much sodium directly leads to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular aliments,” Mims said.

The final week is all about physical activity. Called My Movement is Why, week four is about getting enough exercise. The AHA advises children get at least 60 minutes of activity daily and for adults to get 150 minutes weekly. The Heart 360 app can be used to incorporate movements into games and it records physical activity.

“The Life is Why Family Health Challenge™ was crafted to be simple, quick, and fun for families to do together,” Dr. Timothy Quinn, AHA volunteer and family physician, said in a press release. “Childhood obesity is a sensitive subject and we tend to see that the trend starts at home, but it doesn’t have to. Once parents realize just how easy it is to live healthier without adding extra time to their schedules, it will help them to maintain the changes they made in September throughout 2015 and beyond.”

Mims believes starting young is the key to continuing a healthy lifestyle.

“Studies have shown if you start young with children, in terms of eating vegetables and getting more active, they tend to carry those lifestyle changes throughout the remainder of their life,” Mims said.

Good health habits typically start at home, he said, which is why this challenge is an important starting point for families.

“We just really want parents to be aware that childhood obesity is a serious issue in our country,” Mims said. “We want them to pay attention to it and to start incorporating more healthy habits into their home life and encouraging their children to get active and to be cognizant of good nutrition because we want children to grow up to be healthy stronger adults.”

The association’s website, heart.org/healthierkids, provides families with recipes, games, tips, videos and activities they can do together that won’t break the bank or disrupt daily routines.

Every Wednesday in September there will be a Twitter chat @American_Heart for participants to better understand how to meet the goals of the challenge. Join the challenge today in the events section of the American Heart Association Facebook.