Social Media

Addicted To Your Smartphone And Social Media? It Could End Up Being Harmful

It’s not hyperbole to say smartphones, social media, and technology in general has become the center of our lives. We communicate, work, play, date, take photos, and do a million other activities, all at the click of a button. It helps to make tasks effortless and quick.

But as the rule with all good things, there comes a problem. Social media and smartphones can have very addicting tendencies that are becoming increasingly obvious. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center study, 49% of U.S. adults on Facebook — seven-in-ten users — say they visit the site several times a day, with 22% visiting at least once.

For Snapchat, 45% visit several times a day, while Instagram has 38% of users logging on frequently. The increased activity is especially prevalent throughout younger age groups, which apps like Snapchat are catered too.

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Of course, just visiting a platform doesn’t mean you’re necessarily addicted, especially if it’s only for a few seconds each. But, as Wall Street Journal family and tech columnist Julie Jargon explained, there a number of ways to tell if you’re obsessed with your phone and social media.

Jargon explained that if you find it hard to put your phone down, it could mean you’re using it compulsively, indicting addiction. Some examples of this might be a person refusing to do an action — such as going to the bathroom or walking down the street — without checking their phone.

This can certainly end poorly in a number of ways, from not looking while crossing the street or when driving, leaving both yourself and others in potential danger. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, texting while driving can reduce a driver’s attention by 37%.

Like with all habits, these compulsions can be hard to break. However, you have a weapon at your disposal: your phone’s settings, which can allow you to slowly chip away your need to be looking at the screen, even it’s its forced.

“Try logging how often you check your feeds in a day, including those brief glances during spare moments,” Jargon said, emphasizing turning off app notifications, turning on Do Not Disturb, and configuring settings that don’t allow the receiving of texts while driving. Finding other activities to put in place of the moments you use for your phone time can also help to fill the void.

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Among other signs to look out for include using social media to satisfy yourself, suffering withdrawal symptoms when not using a device, convincing yourself you have an audience you need to serve, or that social media use is getting in the way of your life and preventing you from time with family and friends.

All of those possible signs can have a draining impact on your self-esteem and relationships, while an addiction can also lead to other potential problems that can threaten mental states. Studies have found potential links between excessive phone usage and cognitive functions, emotional reactions, and medical problems that include a lack of sleep, unhealthy eating habits, and physical loss.

So, what else can be done to help? Jargon suggested developing a schedule for social media and phone use, helping you to give yourself much-needed no-screen time while not cutting yourself off completely. Therapy can also be helpful for those that have developed serious conditions.

Healthy Lifestyle

Adopting A Healthier Lifestyle In Your 80s Can Add Years To Your Life 

According to new research from Japan, even when you’re in your 80s you can add years to your life by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. 

Scientists in the research paper discussed how reducing your alcohol intake, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and increasing sleep can give individuals some of the biggest changes in their life for the better. 

Healthy 40-year-olds in the study showed a life longevity that increased by six years when these specific habits were regularly implemented into their daily lives. The benefits were even more prominent within individuals who were 80+ years old. 

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The gains in life longevity also applied to individuals who were dealing with life-threatening illnesses including cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney disease. 

The study came from Osaka University, and was meant to prove that it’s never too late for someone to give up negative habits that impact their health. The study was based on almost 50,000 individuals from Japan who were tracked for up to 20 years. 

“This is a particularly important finding given the prevalence of chronic disease has increased globally,” said Senior author Professor Hiroyasu Iso.

The team says “taking ownership of your health is key to a pleasurable retirement.”

“Idioms and proverbs about the importance of maintaining good health span the ages. Many emphasize how closely health is tied to happiness and the opportunity to live a fulfilling and enjoyable life.”

The study was published in Age and Aging, and emphasized how healthy behaviors adopted over time, when one is middle aged or older, have a significant effect on lifespan. 

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Specifically, researchers found that adopting five or more healthy lifestyle habits increases  life expectancy for individuals older than 80, including those with chronic conditions. The results of the study were also dependent on socioeconomic status which can increase someone’s access to things like assisted healthcare, and healthy lifestyle brands. 

The study began nearly 30 years ago when participants in the Japan Collaborate Cohort (JACC) Study filled in surveys regarding their diet, exercise habits, alcohol consumption, smoking status, sleep schedules, Body Mass Index, and illnesses. 

The overall goal of the study was to increase common knowledge on what simple lifestyle changes can make a difference when it comes to someone’s quantity and quality of life. It’s known as one of the first studies to measure the impact of improving lifestyle habits among older individuals. 

“The finding that lifestyle improvements have a positive impact on health despite chronic health conditions and older age is an empowering one, especially given the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions and longer life,” said lead author Dr. Ryoto Sakaniwa.

Lead author Dr Frank Hu, of Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, described the study results as “a positive message for the public”.

“They gain not just more years of life but good years through improved lifestyle choices.”

Green Heart Lifestyle

Could Greener Lifestyles Lead To Greater Happiness? Studies Suggest So

For those that try to keep the Earth green and prosperous, you may have some good feelings coming your way as a “thank you” from Mother Nature. According to studies, research shows that there may be a positive relationship between pro-environmental behaviors and overall wellbeing.

As Cardiff University senior research fellow Stuart Capstick explained, there are a number of reasons for this connection. One could be that taking the steps to protect and better the environment fulfills our basic psychological needs, “such as the sense that we are making a useful contribution to the world or acting on our own values and concerns.”

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Capstick noted that kind of logic can also act in the opposite way. People who are in a better state of mind are more likely to pay attention to the environment surrounding them, acting in a way that will benefit everyone rather than just themselves.

In the study that Capstick was an author of, the research went beyond the relationship between environmentalism and wellbeing. Instead, they focused on whether this positive influence was only obtainable in wealthy countries, or if privilege is a nonexistent factor.

Studying 7,000 people in over several different countries like India, the U.K., and Denmark, the research found that regardless of their home and wealth, people that committed environmentally friendly acts — from reducing food waste to donating to environmental campaigns — had their wellbeing positively affected.

“At the personal level, the connection between green behaviour and wellbeing was as pronounced for those on lower incomes as those in higher income brackets,” Capstick said. He also added that regardless of how materialistic or selflessness people claimed themselves to be, their wellbeing rose the same regardless in the event of a environmental action.

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The key difference between countries found by Capstick and co. was that nations with a “more collectivist social organisation,” such as Brazil and China, had a “particularly profounding” wellbeing impact on those who participating in eco-friendly activities as a group.

Considering the data, then, would seem to suggest that a very simple way of improving your mental state is to take the steps to benefit the world around you. Luckily, there is plenty of flexibility when it comes to the actions that can make a difference.

According to BBC, looking for eco-friendly clothes — like cotton over polyester — and shopping at second-hand stores is a great way to bolster both your closet and your sense of eco-responsibility. When it comes to food, meanwhile, eating locally and seasonally are recommended, as is perhaps cutting down on meat.

“I don’t think everyone has to go vegan to make a huge change. The more realistic thing is for the majority of people cutting down meat consumption to a couple of days a week.”

Recycling and reusing materials is always a major environmental aid, and it’s as easy as throwing your plastic water bottle into a blue bin. That simpliness also applies to habits around the house, like turning off the faucet when you’re brushing your teeth or flicking off the lightswitch after leaving a room. You’ll also be saving money if you do the latter.

Dog Flowers

Pet Safe Flowers To Brighten Up Your Garden This Summer 

As the summer quickly approaches, many of us are gearing up to beautify our gardens and homes with flowers. For those of us with pets, it’s important to know which flowers are safe to have around the house in case our furry friends decide to do what animals do best and eat something they shouldn’t. 

To ensure all the flowers you buy are non-toxic to your pets, it’s recommended to buy individual bouquets rather than the ones that are pre-assembled. Pre-made bouquets don’t normally have every flower in them listed when you purchase, so it can be hard to tell if everything is safe. 

Like most plants, if ingested, flowers can cause your dog or cat to have an upset stomach, so it’s important to know the least harmful ones you should be reaching for at the garden store. 

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Roses are a classic and safe option for both dogs and cats. Fallen petals that can be accidentally ingested by your pet won’t make them extremely sick, and they come in a wide variety of colors to brighten up any space. If your roses have thorns, try placing them in the least accessible place possible.

Gerber Daisies are some of the most popular flowers among pet-owners as they are both beautiful and safe to have around. Make sure that when you buy these flowers you’re purchasing Gerber Daisies specifically, as other flowers within the daisy family, like chrysanthemums or mums, can be toxic to pets. 

Sunflowers are a classic and safe option for summertime. If the petals or seeds are ingested by a dog or cat, it’s likely that they will experience mild stomach discomfort, but they won’t have any serious health issues. 

It’s vitally important to note that if you notice your pet has a habit of eating plants and/or flowers that you stop them immediately and try to reconfigure your space to give them little to no access to the flowers themselves. 

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Orchids are another beautiful option that pet owners can feel confident about having in their home. Like most flowers on this list, if your pet ingests a petal or leaf they’ll likely experience an upset stomach, but they’re non-toxic overall. 

Freesias are a tall and funnel-shaped flower, which makes it even harder for pets to reach if they’re in a vase. They are, however, lemon scented, which could be tempting for any furry friend. These flowers are non-toxic to dogs and cats though, so an upset stomach will be the biggest concern if they do ingest any part of the flower. 

Beyond the safe flowers, it’s important to know of the ones that you should absolutely never have around a dog or cat, as they’re toxic if ingested. 

These toxic flowers include lilies, mums, tulips, azaleas, daffodils, foxgloves, hydrangea, baby’s breath, peonias, iris’, lavender, and eucalyptus. To be absolutely safe, always do your research before bringing any sort of plant or flower into the home.

With Rising Prices, Here Are Some Ways To Save For Easter Activities

Due to rising inflation and the Ukraine conflict, prices on goods across the board have taken a hit, and with Easter coming up, you may feel it in your pocketbook more than ever. The New York Post reported that the average cost of an Easter basket has skyrocketed to $61.83, up from $50.46 — or 22.5% — in the spring of 2019.

Individual candies like Hershey’s and Kit Kats have risen 99 cents to $1.25, while a classic 6-oz chocolate bunny has jumped a dollar to $5.99. Classic Easter meals like lamb and ham have also seen a surge in cost as well, with the USDA reporting all foods to rise 4.5% to 5.5% this year.

Those drastic changes can certainly put a damper on a holiday that saw people spend a combined $21.7 billion last year. While you might feel like hopping away and hiding in a hole, you shouldn’t fret. There are plenty of ways to avoid spending a big paycheck while still ensuring your activities and plans are top of the line.

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When it comes to shopping, coupons are an absolute must for navigating your way towards the best prices. Looking through papers and physically cutting them out or using apps such as Ibotta are both excellent options that won’t just benefit you through Easter, but the rest of the year.

Shopping in bulk can also help cut down on the price per unit of a good, both at big-box retail stores like Costco and BJ’s, or online stores like Just Candy, which currently is having a 30% off sale on all bulk candy, along with 40% on select bulk candy.

Even discount retailers like the Dollar Tree and Dollar General haven’t been immune to rising prices, with Dollar Tree raising most prices to $1.25. Still, that extra change shouldn’t deter you from finding bargain deals on decorations, supplies, and candy. Even better, Dollar Tree’s loss is Dollar General’s gain, with the latter leaning more into the “$1 dollar” selling point. That should give you all the more flexibility on where to shop.

Speaking of decorations, Easter represents an amazing time to make your own. Country Living highlighted a number of fun and innovative ideas, from shaping napkins into bunny ears to making an egg carton wreath out of old egg cartons.

The key here is to recycle and transform common objects around your house, whether that’s pom poms or coffee filters. You’ll not only be saving money by not having buying decor at a store (which can range anywhere from $20 to $50 and above depending where you shop), your imagination won’t be limited either. While this method might take more time, you can easily make it into a fun family activity that your children will love, killing two birds with one stone.

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That DIY attitude can also apply to making your own easter baskets instead of buying pre-made ones, which will allow you to control how much they end up costing. Don’t feel like you have to stick to candy, either – small toys and trinkets make great goodies as well, and add some variety!

Of course, with easter baskets comes egg hunts, the glorious main event in the eyes of a child. If you’re looking to spice up the hunt without spending more cash on candy, The Budget Mom suggests ideas like transforming it into a nighttime hunt with flashlights or replacing the treats with custom rewards like a family movie night or an extra hour before bed.

If you’re more focused on having a grand dinner, perhaps considering making it potluck and BYOB style if a larger amount of guests or relatives are coming over. You would focus on the main dish, while your attendees can help to contribute by offering a diverse group of appetizers and sides. If you still feel like dictating what meals you’d prefer serve, you can also request guests to bring specific dishes as well.

While you might have had the idea that in order to create the perfect Easter, going over budget would be a necessity, taking the time to find the best savings and letting your creative juices flow can prove to result in an even better celebration with friends and family.

Fashion Designer

Alexa Chung Announces The Closing Of Her Fashion Label Due To ‘Challenging’ Conditions 

Celebrity TV presenter and influencer Alexa Chung has announced that she is closing her fashion label of the same name after five years. She stated the closing is due to economic pressures caused by the pandemic. 

The label itself was shown twice during London fashion week, and just recently collaborated with the brand Barbour. Chung stated that the label “is not going into administration but is winding down.”

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Items from the recent Barbour collection will still be available on the brand’s official site until the end of the month. 

Chung noted on Instagram that “the decision to stop wasn’t taken lightly, the experience of setting up and being at the helm of my own company has been rewarding and frequently joyful, but the last couple of years have been challenging for small independent businesses and ours is no exception”.

According to Women’s Wear Daily, Chung was reluctant to embrace the e-commerce branch of her label, a move that she claims she would do differently if she were to start over again. 

Chung originally was known as a model and presenter on the UK’s Channel 4 Popworld, making her a major influencer of the new rave scene. She launched her fashion label in 2017. 

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Chung’s first show at London fashion week was deemed a major success, with reports of the designs being “London tomboy meets Parisian chic.” After that the label was really known for its outerwear.

“Fashion in particular unfortunately suffers from a quite high rate of people really struggling. So more than ever it’s important to have people around supporting you.”

Chung isn’t the only celebrity with a fashion brand that has seen better days in the past. Rihanna closed her ready-to-wear branch of her Fenty line last year while Victoria Beckham has also been financially struggling to upkeep her brand. 

While other celebrities have found major commercial success with their fashion lines, Kim Kardashian with Skims or Kanye West with Yeezy, the pandemic has made retail an incredibly difficult field to be successful in, especially as an entrepreneur. 

How Rotary Phone Toys Managed To Stay Relevant Throughout The Rise Of Smart Technology

Chances are we’ve all played some version of house when we were growing up. Pretending to be grown up, cooking in the play kitchen, and making important calls on our toy rotary phones. These classic elements of play have withstood the test of time, so much so that old school toys like toy rotary phones are still relevant today, regardless of how much technology has changed. 

Fisher Price initially released the toy “chatter telephone” in 1961. You can likely still picture the red phone receiver, eyes that would blink when the phone would ring, and a happy smile.

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Although we’re living in a new era of toys and technology, certain nostalgic items like the classic rotary phone have continued to sell and be played with worldwide. While actual rotary phones may no longer be in style, the toy is still holding its place in the market. 

Jules Burder is someone who has worked in early childhood education for 14 years. She recently spoke to the media and confirmed that the rotary phone – whether in toy or actual form – “ticks many developmental boxes. The repetitive task of rotating the dial builds fine motor skills and dexterity – this helps with pre-writing skills like pen holding,” she stated. 

“The phone also helps with counting, number recognition and even rhythm – you can imagine the click and the zing as the dial is drawn to each selected number.”

“Pretend play helps young children draw from and reflect on their own experiences and it encourages them to develop an understanding of social norms,” she says.

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“The nostalgia factor may explain why parents keep buying these toys.”

Lucia Di Mauro, the owner of Stranger Than Paradise toy shop, believes “nostalgia plays a large part in the dial phone’s enduring popularity.”

“We find that parents remember these toys from when they were kids. The design is mostly unchanged, and it sparks a memory of love or happiness. In the same way that people want to share a great song or movie, parents [and grandparents] want to pass on this positive experience to their children and grandchildren,” Lucia says. 

“Obviously, its appeal to children is not based on nostalgia. They don’t know that the toy is modeled on an old item that is no longer produced. It’s a multifaceted toy that offers many types of play, and that is what kids love.”

Flick Davies, the store manager of Honeybee Toys, finds that, “rather than the adults seeking it out, it’s the children who gravitate towards it. It seems they can’t help but pick it up. Instinctively they know what to do with it – it’s got a receiver like mummy’s phone … that just happens to be attached by coloured string.”

Small Pets Are At Risk Of Heatstroke As Temperatures Rise

If you’re a small animal owner, it’s important to remember as we transition into warmer seasons in the coming months that your furry friends are at risk of heat stroke, depending on where you live, their setups, and how easy it is for them to cool down. Animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, chinchillas, and others need to be protected from extremely hot and humid environments.

Researchers have said that there needs to be an increase in public awareness of heatstroke, and the risks that different animals have to experiencing it. Climate change is making it even harder for small animals to remain cool during the summer months. 

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The most common symptoms that researchers found across every species include abnormal breathing, lethargy, collapsing, and stomach issues like diarrhea. Caged animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, and ferrets are at risk of heatstroke because of their confinement in their cage set ups. Make sure you have the largest and safest set up for your small animals and allow them to get free time every day to stretch. 

Dr Anne Carter, a researcher at Nottingham Trent University, said: “There is a misconception that heatstroke in pets only relates to dogs in hot cars and we need to do more to raise awareness of risk factors not only for dogs but in the wider pet population.”

“Owners of small animals such as rabbits, ferrets and guinea pigs may need to review their pet’s housing and take steps to keep their pets cool in the warmer months to reduce the risk of heatstroke.”

If you have a flat-faced rabbit, typically lop-ears have flatter faces, it’s important to know that they are more susceptible to heatstroke.

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Emily Hall, a researcher and vet, said: “Heat-related illness can affect all pets and is likely to become more common as global temperatures rise. Our findings highlight the need for better public awareness of heatstroke and the risk to all animals.”

“The fact that brachycephalic [flat-faced] dogs and rabbits were overrepresented in our study suggests that owners of these animals should be particularly vigilant during hot weather.”

The data from the study observed a relatively small number of pet patients, so the researchers made it clear in their findings that the overall figures for heat stroke among small animals, dogs, and cats is likely much higher than any reported numbers. 

Lack of awareness from the owner can be the biggest cause of death from heatstroke. In general, when you commit yourself to an animal, no matter how big or small, it’s important to do the proper research and make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep them comfortable and healthy throughout the warmer months.

Ways To Make Sure Your Super Bowl Party A Surefire Touchdown

For socialites, it’s almost one of the best times of the year. The Cincinnati Bengals will face off against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, while millions will be throwing parties to celebrate the big game. While hosting can result in quite a bit of pressure, there are a number of tips you can follow to help you not only budget, but ensure fun and safety for all.

In the new world we live in, it’s important to consider COVID-19 recommendations and precautions when planning your party. Some people might be okay with large groups, while others might only be more relaxed around a couple people that they know are vaccinated.

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If you plan on inviting the friends that prefer small, personal gatherings, you should limit the guest list. On the flip side, if you intend on having a more sizeable party, it might be best for all to leave those who you know wouldn’t be comfortable off the guest list. You can also take further measures — such as social distancing and giving out snacks in small bags instead of having a communal bowl — to limit potential risks.

According to Times Union, a typical Super Bowl spread could cost 14% more than it did in 2021, while the cost of prepared chicken wings are up 14% and 26% for bone-in and boneless, respectively. Other popular choices, like soda and snacks, have also risen in price.

Those surges may seem intimidating, but there are plenty of ways to still succeed on a budget. When it comes to decorations, consider making your own or buying supplies from cheaper retailers like the Dollar Store. You can also make your own games, such as trivia and bingo, with little-to-no hassle. Keep an eye out for coupons and promotions, too – they can go a long way towards bringing the receipt down.

As for food, meanwhile, Times Union notes buying bulk frozen foods can be a much cheaper and less time consuming method of feeding your guests. Or, you can have everyone chip in by bringing their own dish. Not only will it spread the responsibility around and break up stress in the process, it’ll diverse your platter options – and perhaps even introduce you to some great new recipes.

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When considering servings, you might be ready to hit up the classics with pizza and wings. However, trying new dishes is always a fun option, and gives your party some uniqueness. Good Housekeeping has a number of mouthwatering appetizers and entrees, from spinach artichoke tartines to lamb sliders with pepper relish.

Alcohol can be trickier to decide on than food because of the diverse amount of types and preferences, so making your party BYOB is a smart way of knowing everyone will be happy with their beverage, whether that’s beer, wine, or a mixed drink.

Most importantly, the party thrower can have fun too. They’re the ones that help to set the mood for the party, so if you’re relaxed, people will follow suit. Making all the food is prepared for the game is a great way to help, so there’s no need to be rushing around. Remember, there’s nothing worse than a fretful and overbearing host that will have attendees wishing for the game clock to finally hit zero.

Teaching Preschoolers Healthy Lifestyle Habits Can lower Risk For Heart Disease, Study Says

A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that introducing healthy lifestyle habits to kids at a young age can lower their risk of developing heart disease later in life. Healthy lifestyle habits include staying active, eating five portions of fruits/vegetables, and reducing overall salt intake. 

“The SI! Program (Salud Integral – Comprehensive Health) was developed as a multilevel and multi-component school-based program for the promotion of cardiovascular health and achieving lasting lifestyle changes in children from preschool age. It was implemented in three countries from the year 2009 onwards,” said Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, general director at Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares (CNIC), director of Mount Sinai Heart and principal investigator of the project.

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The authors reviewed the results which were taken over a period of 10 years, and surveyed more than 3,800 children aged between three to five from 50 schools across Colombia, Spain, and the US. The children were mainly assessed on how their knowledge, habits, and attitudes changed towards a healthy lifestyle. 

Those who participated in the program itself showed a significant increase in knowledge, attitude, and habits that support a healthy lifestyle. Fuster explained that they were able to analyze the success of the program by focusing on the maturation of the children, and changing the questionnaires to adapt with them as they get older. 

Children who received more than 75% of the program had a significant change from the baseline of their overall knowledge, attitudes, and habits, especially when compared to the children who received less than 50% of the program. 

 “The school environment is a great area to introduce healthy lifestyle interventions because children are spending so much of their time there,”  said Rodrigo Fernández-Jiménez, MD, PhD, and author on the study. 

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“There are specific times in a child’s life when improvements can be made to enhance long-term cardiovascular health status. Our review, and previous studies, suggest that four to five years of age is the most favorable time to start a school-based intervention focused on healthy habits.”

“Most preschool interventions focus solely on physical activity and diet. The SI! Program breaks down cardiovascular health into four components. Through the first two components, children are learning how a well-balanced diet and physically active life are directly connected to a healthy heart. Next, they learn about emotion management, which seeks to instill behavior mechanisms against substance abuse – mainly smoking – and dietary decisions later in life. Finally, the children are taught about how the human body works and how it is affected by behavior and lifestyle,” said Gloria Santos-Beneit, PhD, and lead author of the study.

In the future, the authors hope to put a greater focus on the involvement of the families of the children in the study. Socioeconomic status has a major influence on how easy it can be for a child and family to maintain healthy lifestyle habits, so the authors of the study are looking for ways to intervene and make it more accessible to them. 

“Further research is needed to identify specific socioeconomic status factors that influence child health and effectiveness of intervention in the long term, and the issue of sustainability or need for re-intervention,” Fuster said.