Children's health starts at home - Albuquerque Journal

Children’s health starts at home

Cathryn Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal

If you ask any parent what they want most for their kids, you’re bound to hear something about good health. Unfortunately, what most parents say and what they do to achieve good health are very different things.

The irony is real, and I see it every day in the families of my pediatric patients. Many of their daily routines are niggling away at their children’s health-span. The problem with health is it often goes unappreciated until we’re in crisis.

Speaking of crisis, the health of our entire country is in serious jeopardy, and especially the health of our kids. The next generation is already heavier, more diseased, more medicated, slower moving, faster paced, more socially pressured, less satisfied, more anxious and more depressed than ever. And it’s not about to stop!

By 2050, it’s projected 43% of us will suffer from obesity, half from heart disease, half from cancer, one-third from type 2 diabetes and 40% from anxiety disorders. Wouldn’t it be nice if our kids were the exception to these skyrocketing disease trends? The truth is, they can be, but it takes massive change that starts at home with all parents. My colleagues and I can educate until we’re blue in the face, but it’s meaningless without the full support of mom and dad implementing this advice.

Right now, as we recognize National Children’s Health Month (October), let me offer you some food for thought.

It’s time to take your fridge, freezer, and pantry by storm. Own them. Don’t let your kids dictate how you fill them and what you will offer. Your child’s health and happiness depend on your day-to-day conversations and grocery store decisions. Remember, you are what you eat, and your kids are what they eat. Their little cells are screaming for the right nutrients – the building blocks for recovery and optimal health.

Make sure your kids are getting enough exercise. They need at least an hour a day of vigorous play. Our kids are severely lacking in this area, spending more time glued to the couch, and it’s why so many of them are suffering lifestyle-related conditions like obesity, insulin resistance, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, early cardiovascular inflammation, active caries disease (rampant tooth decay), and addiction to everything from caffeine and sugar to heroin. It’s estimated 75% of our country’s health expenditure is for these lifestyle diseases that are preventable. That’s where mom and dad come in to make things right, and the earlier in life the better.

As with so much in parenting, we each get a short window of opportunity to influence a child for a lifetime. It’s time for all parents to learn to see the human body as a whole – and learn what to do to care for it and share this valuable information with your kids. For example: How do we breathe properly? What’s the quality and quantity of our sleep? What do we eat? How do we effectively move our bodies? How do we respond to stress, both acute and chronic? How do we nourish and nurture our brains? And how do we improve our gut/mouth microbiome?

If you want to put a child in the driver’s seat on a lifelong journey to health, it’s time to take bold and massive action. I wholeheartedly believe if we are ever going to change this abysmal situation, we must do it through a generation of children who “get it.” As parents, you can ensure this by working together with your kids to change detrimental habits during their formative years. Stand tall against cultural norms. Refuse to be intimidated. Together we can win!

Dr. Susan Maples is a health educator and professional speaker who spearheaded Total Health Dentistry, or Integrative Dental Medicine, and is recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in mouth-body connections. She is author of “Brave Parent: Raising Healthy, Happy Kids Against All Odds in Today’s World.”

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