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June 17, 2024

How to Boost Kids’ Heart Health from Intermountain Health

How to Boost Kids’ Heart Health from Intermountain Health

Dr. Daniel Ziebell, director of the Cardiac Fitness Program at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, gives tips to improve kids’ heart health.

It is important that every child be physically active – especially kids who have heart disease, or who have had heart surgeries, including a heart transplant – to ensure heart health later in life.

“Being physically active, whether it’s playing catch, going for a hike, or riding bikes, can make a huge difference to a child’s health. This goes for all kids – even kids with heart disease who may be nervous or anxious to be physically active,” said Dan Ziebell, MD, Director of the Cardiac Fitness Program at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital and pediatric cardiologist with University of Utah Health. “We want every kid to be active, get stronger and improve their aerobic fitness.”

The American Heart Association reports that fewer than 30 percent of kids ages 2-19 met eight high healthy heart standardswhich include healthy diet, physical activity, blood pressure, quality of sleep and others.

Dr. Ziebell offers the following tips:

  • Make physical activity part of your family’s day. Simple acts like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, going on walks, or spending more time outside (away from screens) can make your heart stronger and healthier. Every little thing you do matters. Get outside and play as much as you can!
  • Limit sugary drinks. This includes soft drinks, fruit juice, and sports drinks. The impact of artificial sweeteners on children are not well understood. The best beverage choices for children are simple: water and plain milk.
  • Sleep is important for heart health. Improve sleep hygiene by removing electronic devices from the bedroom and limiting screen time prior to bed. Have a consistent bedtime, keep the room quiet (white noise can help), and have a consistent bedtime routine. With better sleep, we tend to be more active and make better health choices.
  • Model healthy behaviors for your kids. Kids whose parents live a healthier lifestyle are more likely to be healthy when older.

For kids with acquired or congenital heart conditions, Primary Children’s Hospital has a new pediatric Cardiac Fitness Program.

This one-on-one, supervised fitness program helps patients to increase their strength and aerobic capacity. It is part of the nationally ranked Heart Center at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospitaland is one of very few available to kids in the country.

“Everyone knows that exercise is important to physical and mental health, but people for the longest time have struggled to get kids with heart problems to be active. This is the best way we know how to do it,” Dr. Ziebell said of the program. “We’re taking this concept of cardiac rehabilitation, and making it part of the standard of care for our patients. We want kids to be happier, healthier, sleep better, and do better at school. We know that being active is part of that.”

Participants engage with an exercise physiologist two or three times per week to improve their muscular strength, aerobic capacity, and physical performance. The program is individually tailored, and encourages kids to do the kinds of activities they like to do. It helps them understand their limitations, and feel comfortable being physically active on their own.

The Cardiac Fitness Program is available in person at the Primary Children’s Hospital, Salt Lake Campus, and now at the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Campus in Lehi, which opened February 12. It’s also available virtually to patients who are unable to travel long distances.

For more information, visit intermountainhealthcare.org/primary-childrens.

About Intermountain Health

Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., Intermountain Health is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called Select Health with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.

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