The Family Health Challenge, Heart Health Version
Brandon Morrical, MD

Brandon Morrical, MD

Springtime and pleasant weather have arrived, so what better time to get the whole family involved in heart-healthy habits? This family health challenge will boost your health and strengthen your heart.

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans? It accounts for more deaths each year than all types of cancer combined.

And the reality is, most heart-healthy habits can be started early in life. That’s why we’re bringing heart health into our family health challenge this month.

We challenge you to take five steps to improve your heart health this month.

Heart disease knows no boundaries — it’s not restricted by gender, race or age. So, let’s explore five ways you can boost your heart health as a family starting this month!

  1. Make family time active. Does your quality time as a family often consist of watching a movie together or heading to a sporting event? Now’s the perfect time to start reframing your family time as active time. Incorporate movement whenever you can — take a hike on one of our local trails, explore a historic battleground, spend time running around the children’s museum or aquarium, go bowling, or even just take a basketball and play a game on a local court. You’ll have tons of fun and get in at least part of the recommended daily physical activity. That’s a definite win!
  2. Take some things off your schedule. Yep, you read that correctly! Did you know that stress is a major risk factor for conditions like heart disease and stroke? And part of what’s stressing us out these days is trying to do way too much. Obviously, items like school and work are musts, but take an opportunity this month to review your family calendar and determine if everything needs to stick around or if there are things that could be skipped. Odds are, there are at least a few to-dos that don’t actually need to be done. You’ll enjoy a little extra breathing room in your schedule and a little less stress.
  3. Find some sweet treats, without the added sugar. Most Americans eat way more sugar than we need. With that said, though, you don’t have to completely cut sugar out of your diet. You just want to cut back on the added sugars that are commonly found in processed foods and even in items you wouldn’t expect, like pasta sauce or bread. You can still have sweets, you just want to choose wisely. Try blending up a smoothie with fruit or baking up a batch of muffins that contain bananas and cinnamon as the “sweet” component rather than sugar! All of the flavor, less of the added sugar. And remember to keep vegetables a standard part of your diet!
  4. Take care of those teeth. What does your oral health have to do with your heart health? A lot, actually. Research has shown that bacteria in the mouth that stimulate gum disease can also contribute to inflammation in the blood vessels. This increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Now’s a good time for a refresher course in good dental health as a family — brush teeth twice daily and floss once a day. (And be sure your kids aren’t getting too much fluoride!)
  5. Nip smoking in the bud. Smoking and secondhand smoke are bad news for heart health. And that includes e-cigarette smoking, including Juuling, since these products contain nicotine. So, what does this have to do with this family health challenge? Well, kids and teens are increasingly smoking e-cigarette products, thinking they’re “safer.” Now’s the perfect time to remind your kids that there’s no such thing as safe smoking.

Brandon Morrical, MD, specializes in pediatric cardiology at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger and has a passion for patients and families with congenital heart disease. Learn more about comprehensive heart care close to home!