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The Best Gift is a Healthy Heart

The Best Gift is a Healthy Heart

By Roberta Duyff, MS, RD, FAND

Published January 21, 2014

February 14th 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 2 through 19 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

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