FRHS.ORG 5 ON A LIST of the greatest gifts you could give your kids, a healthy heart would be near the top. After all, heart disease is the nation’s No. 1 killer. And it often starts in childhood. Helping your kids develop lifelong heart-healthy habits, especially those centered around eating well and being active, is one way to give that gift. Use these tips to make heart health a family affair: • Check in with a doctor. Ask your children’s doctor if they should be screened with blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol or body mass index (BMI) tests. These offer clues about heart disease risk. • Find time to eat together. Frequent family meals promote healthier eating and a healthy weight. • Don’t insist on a clean plate. Allow your children to stop eating when full. • Emphasize healthy foods. Make fast food the exception, not the rule. And cook heart-friendly foods at home. • Increase fruits and vegetables. They help with weight and blood pressure control. • Make a menu change. Yank saturated fat, excess sodium and added sugar from your family’s menu when possible. • Live by example. Kids pay attention to what you eat—as well as how much you exercise and whether you engage in habits like smoking that are unhealthy for the heart. • Add active toys to the toy box. Think a jump rope, a soccer ball or inline skates—with the recommended safety gear. • Cheer your children on. Find a sport or active pursuit your children enjoy, like swimming. Then provide opportunities for your kids to participate. • Prioritize play. Fit at least one hour of physical activity into your children’s daily schedule. It could be active playtime or something more organized—anything to get your kids moving. • Plan some family fun. Ask everyone to set aside time during the week and on weekends for fun family fitness. You might all go for a bike ride, for example. • Issue family fitness challenges. For instance, see who can do the most situps during a TV commercial. • Restrict screen time. Set limits for each child to balance media use with other healthy behaviors. Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; American Heart Association a family matter Family fun fitness challenges Looking for more ways to get active as a family? Try one of these challenges: • Shoot hoops or play HORSE. • Start a kickball game. • Sign up for a 1K, 5K or longer run/walk, such as the upcoming Laugh-and-a-Half Marathon in Norfolk. • Have a dance party. • Create an obstacle course using objects from your household or yard. Find a physician for every member of your family. Visit frhs.org.