Best Gift is a Healthy Heart

by Roberta Duyff, MS RDN FAND

Best Gift is a Healthy Heart

February 14 is Valentine's Day and the best gift you can give your kids is nutrition for a healthy heart.

Compelling research suggests that fatty buildup in arteries begins in childhood and is more likely with higher blood cholesterol levels. For that reason, the American Heart Association offers advice for children and teens about these related health risks:

  • Cigarette smoking: discourage it.
  • High blood pressure: identify and treat it.
  • Obesity: prevent it or reduce weight.
  • Diabetes: diagnose and treat it.
  • Inactivity: encourage regular aerobic exercise (30 to 60 minutes), on most days of the week. At the same time, kids need to eat enough fruits and vegetables each day, and choose foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol.

For cardiovascular health, young people, ages two through nineteen years, should maintain acceptable blood cholesterol levels:


Total Cholesterol

LDL Cholesterol


200 or greater

130 or greater


170 to 199

100 to 129


Less than 170

Less than 100

Reviewed June 2013

Rate this article:  Average 4.5 out of 5

About the author:

Roberta L Duyff MS RDN FAND

Roberta Duyff, MS RDN FAND

Author of "Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, Fourth Edition" and "365 Days of Healthy Eating from the American Dietetic Association" (both published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New Jersey).




  • Cook healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of all meals. Even a snack can be healthy.

  • Eat right

    Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day's experiences with one another.

  • Shop smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

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