Community , Health

Healthy choices for the next generation

Experts say children who consume food and drinks loaded with added sugars are more likely to face health risks such as increased weight, diabetes and high blood pressure — health problems associated with the development of heart disease.

New guidelines published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation recommend children ages 2 to 18 should consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugars daily, which equates to 25 grams or about 100 calories.

“For most children, eating no more than six teaspoons of added sugars per day is a healthy and achievable target,” said Dr. Miriam Vos, lead author of the guidelines’ statement and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

Children and teens should also limit their intake of sugary drinks to fewer than eight ounces per week, according to the guidelines.

Lenggenhager said she and her husband made the choice to cut back on added sugars after a few family health scares. Both sides have a family history of diabetes, a health risk that can lead to serious complications like heart disease or stroke.

“Our main goal is that we want to live a life together — all four of us — for as long as we possibly can and we want to live it to the fullest,” Lenggenhager said. “We love to travel. We love to do everything, and we know the best way to do that is through activity and weight loss. One of the best ways to lose your weight is to cut out your added sugars.”

Lenggenhager said she now asks family and friends to serve healthier desserts at birthdays and celebrations. For home, she picks up fresh fruits and vegetables each week from the Potawatomi community garden.

Fuller said the family has also made it a goal to engage in family activities like walking or playing at the local park at least three times a week.

“The biggest impact we can have as adults and as a community is by being good role models to help the next generation,” Fuller said. “It takes a team, not just an individual.”

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of Native American communities reviving healthy and active lifestyles. In addition to the efforts made by CPN’s Health Services, the tribe is involving the Cultural Heritage Center and FireLodge Youth Council in more activities to promote a healthier community, such as volunteering in the community garden.

Several tribes are also shifting their focus to the return of traditional foods and to increasing physical activity through system-wide policy change.

Policies like the Healthy Diné Nation Act on the Navajo Nation Reservation are creating opportunities for community-driven wellness projects such as walking trails, bike paths and clean water initiatives. Revenues collected from the tax created by the Healthy Diné Nation Act will fund the projects.

“This really is an exciting time where we are seeing healthy changes across Indian Country and across the world,” said Denisa Livingston, health advocate with the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance, which helped develop the policy.

“It’s important to see all of these changes not just as a trend but as a lifestyle.”

This story was published in partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids.


© Native Health News Alliance. This story was produced with support from the American Heart Association.

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