Back to School Heart Health Hacks for Parents

4:38 PM, Oct 02, 2019
1:07 PM, Oct 03, 2019

The school year is back, and it's a busy time, no question. You probably have a long list of to-dos from packing school lunches, to helping with homework and shuttling your kids to after-school activities.

And while it may not be top of mind right now, it's important to maintain your own health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women worldwide. "More women than men die of the disease," said Dr. Corwin A. Thomas, FACC, FASNC, FSCAI, Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist and Board Certified Nuclear Cardiologist in Lafayette, Louisiana. The CDC says between 70 and 89 percent of sudden cardiac events occur in men.

Heart disease is not just a condition of the elderly. If you are a parent, now is the time to start setting good habits.

Here are a few helpful reminders to stay ahead of your heart health needs during the school year.

Catch some Z's

If you're accustomed to burning the candle at both ends, Dr. Thomas recommends trying to get your eight hours per night for just two weeks. Chances are, it will become a habit once you realize how much better you feel.

Take some time off

Even if your workaholic tendencies aren't breaking your family's hearts, they might be damaging your own. "Excessive overtime and extended work days on a consistent basis can do real damage over the years," said Dr. Thomas. Research shows a 55-hour workweek increases your risk of heart disease by 16 percent when compared with a 45-hour week. A 65-hour week spikes it by 33 percent.

Prevent the flu

When kids head back to school, often the school requests that your child have up-to-date records of all the immunizations they have received. When juggling the health care for the entire family, it can be difficult to remember if or when your child received their immunizations. Some may be surprised to know the flu vaccine can lower the chance of developing heart disease and lowers the chance of dying from heart disease.

Eat healthy foods

Acadiana residents may find it hard to remember with all the great local eats, but 80 percent of heart disease is preventable by living a heart-healthy lifestyle. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats.

This doesn't mean you can't eat your favorite foods, just be mindful to moderate your diet.

Offset bad diet days by being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight. Maintaining a body mass index below 25 reduces heart disease risk, as does keeping a waist measurement below 35 inches. Dr. Thomas recommends moderate exercise, like a brisk walk for 30 to 60 minutes a day, all at once or divided into several 10- to 15-minute blocks for the same benefit. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk with your kids after school or ride a bicycle around the neighborhood instead of driving.

Put out that cigarette!

Smoking is one of the most significant heart disease risk factors for everyone, but more so for women. "Studies have shown that smoking is a more dangerous risk factor in women than in men," according to Dr. Thomas. A woman who smokes is twice as likely to have a heart attack as one who does not, so quitting smoking is one of the best ways a woman can lower her risk of heart disease.

Smoking releases nicotine which narrows arteries and carbon monoxide which damages the inner lining of arteries, thereby limiting blood flow and increasing the risk of a heart attack.

Schedule an annual physical

Men are less likely to get an annual physical or health screening than women. According to Gallup, 83 percent of women report getting an annual checkup, while just 73 percent of men do. The younger the man, the worse it is. Just 66 percent of men, younger than age 50, are getting routine checkups. A basic health screening or physical identifies certain risk factors for heart disease - including high blood pressure and high cholesterol - and gives you a baseline to work with if those numbers change.

During the busy back to school season, don't let healthcare get pushed down your to-do list. Parents put their family's needs before their own, but in order to take care of your family, you must first take care of yourself.

Maintenance is easier (and cheaper) than repair, so stay on top of your health and save your time and money, a win-win.

For over 15 years, Dr. Corwin Thomas, FACC, FASNC, FSCAI has provided quality care and consultation in the treatment of heart and vascular diseases, incorporating electrocardiography, nuclear cardiology, echocardiography, preventive cardiovascular services, lipid management, weight management, electrophysiology and interventional cardiovascular procedures, to name a few. For more information, visit, or 802 E. Farrel Rd., Lafayette, LA 70508 or call (337) 234-3163.

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