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For Kids, What is Ideal Heart Health?

The road to cardiovascular disease begins in childhood, and it’s a road many American children are on, based on a new report from the American Heart Association that indicates very few kids meet all the criteria for ideal heart health.

Many are overweight or obese. Others don’t get enough exercise or have picked up smoking. But the biggest disqualifying factor was diet: Less than 1 percent of children ages 2 to 19 meet the criteria for an ideal diet, according to federal data from 2007 to 2008.

That troubling reality led the AHA to issue Thursday’s scientific statement that provides the first detailed look at ideal heart health for kids: no tobacco use, a healthy weight, at least 60 minutes of exercise a day, a healthy diet score and normal blood pressure, total cholesterol and blood sugar.

Pediatric cardiologist Thomas R. Kimball, M.D., was “shocked” when he heard so few U.S. children meet all seven criteria for ideal heart health.

For more on this story, CLICK HERE. 

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The Jig is Up on Added Sugar

ICYMI - which means "in case you missed it" ... new scientific evidence reveals the dangers of too much sugar for our kids.  New recommendations by the American Heart Association are as follows:  Experts recommend that children ages 2-18 consumer less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.  Also recommended is limiting sugary beverage consumption to no more than one 8 ounce serving per week.  The recommendations also advise that children under the age of two should not consumer any foods and beverages with added sugars. 

According to the statement by the AHA, eating foods high in added sugars throughout childhood is linked to the development of risk factors for heart disease, such as an increased risk of obesity and elevated blood pressure in children and young adults.

“Children who eat foods loaded with added sugars tend to eat fewer healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products that are good for their heart health,” said Miriam Vos, M.D., Ms.P.H, lead author, nutrition scientist and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

The likelihood of children developing these health problems rises with an increase in the amount of added sugars consumed. Overweight children who continue to take in more added sugars are more likely to be insulin resistant, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, according to the statement.

“There has been a lack of clarity and consensus regarding how much added sugar is considered safe for children, so sugars remain a commonly added ingredient in foods and drinks, and overall consumption by children remains high – the typical American child consumes about triple the recommended amount of added sugars,” said Vos.

For more on this story, as shared on Good Morning American, CLICK HERE. 

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Where in NC is PE?

When my granddaughter started elementary school, she had physical education (PE) class twice per week. At that time, we were disappointed that it wasn't every day. By the time she was in fifth grade, PE was only offered about twice per month. In her words, "How is that enough? I thought we needed PE every day!"

We can do better and now is our chance!

Tell our Public School Leaders to include PE in the state's education accountability plan. 

The federal law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was passed in 2015 and now every state has to create an accountability plan. ESSA emphasizes a well-rounded education, prioritizing physical and mental health. We need to tell state education leaders PE should be included in NC's plan.

All students should have the opportunity to participate in PE - it not only helps their physical health, but their mental and emotional health as well. Just like my granddaughter, many students in NC do not get the physical education they need. With an ever-growing number of priorities competing for time during the school day, too many of our children have lost what was once a given: access to quality PE.

Will you help me save PE? Take action today!

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The Movement for Healthy Boulder Kids Continues!

The movement to combat childhood obesity in Boulder is now one step closer to officially being considered on the November election ballot. Earlier this summer, over 9,000 Boulder residents demonstrated their support for healthy Boulder kids by signing a petition to increase access to healthy foods, nutrition education, and physical activity, through revenue from a tax on sugary drinks.

A few weeks ago, the Boulder City Council voted unanimously in favor of this initiative. We are incredibly thankful for their overwhelming support and their consideration of the will of the voters. Stay tuned as we await the final vote of approval to advance this important health initiative to the November ballot.


It’s going to take all of us, working together, to ensure a victory at the ballot box this November. AHA is committed to this work, but we need support from people like you to vote in favor of this critical public health measure. Join our campaign to combat childhood obesity and support healthy Boulder families!

Please email to learn how to get involved!

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Every child in Oregon deserves a safe route to school

Guest Blogger: Christina Bodamer, Oregon Government Relations Director

This last May, the AHA’s work through the For Every Kid Coalition succeeded in securing an unprecedented investment in Safe Routes to School (SRTS) in the Portland metro area: $3.5 million specifically earmarked to improve safety for people walking, bicycling, and accessing transit, especially near schools. This dedication to SRTS is extraordinary at the regional level, dedicating $1.5 million for a regional Safe Routes program and $2 million for street improvements near Title 1 (low-income) schools and trails. By creating safe routes to school, more kids can get the daily health benefits of walking and biking while reducing the amount of motor vehicles on the road during peak times.

Even with our great success in Portland, far too many kids across the state of Oregon still can’t walk and bike to school because of unsafe streets and a lack of necessary education programming. Which is why we are now building on the momentum from our most recent success in Portland by expanding the For Every Kid Coalition into a statewide Campaign, working to make sure that Safe Routes To School is included in the full 2017 Oregon Transportation package.

Our work will not be easy. Washington County alone has learned in a recently completed needs assessment that over $100 million will be required to make their streets safe. But the For Every Kid Coalition is committed to making Safe Routes to School for every kid in Oregon by continuing to advocate for dedicated funding for both education programs and street improvements near schools.

Governor Brown’s appointed Joint Transportation Committee is hosting town hall meetings in the following communities this fall. Consider attending and sharing why Safe Routes to School are important to your local schools:

  • Bend: August 18, 5:30 p.m.
    Wille Hall, Coats Campus Center, Central Oregon Community College, 2600 NW College Way, Bend
  • Medford: August 31, 5:00 p.m.
    Jackson County Library, Medford Branch, 205 S. Central Avenue, Medford
  • Newport: September 15, 5:00 p.m.
    Ballroom, Embarcadero Hotel, 1000 SE Bay Blvd, Newport
  • Hillsboro: September 19, 5:00 p.m.
    Shirley Huffman Auditorium, Hillsboro Civic Center, 150 E. Main Street,      Hillsboro
  • Salem: September 2, 5:15 p.m.
    Hearing Room F, Oregon State Capitol, 900 Court Street NE, Salem

When it is safe, convenient, and fun to walk, bike and access transit to neighborhood schools, our children are healthier, our streets are safer for everyone, and our communities thrive. Every kid in Oregon deserves a chance at a healthy future. #ForEveryKid

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It's Back to School Season

Guest Blogger: Erin Bennett, Idaho Government Relations Director

It’s already August, which means these long, hot days of summer will soon be turning into early mornings and back to school schedules. We hope that the summer has given you plenty of opportunities to get out and get active!

We know how important it is to get in daily physical activity to maintain good health. In fact, just 30 minutes a day of physical activity is associated with a healthier, longer life, as well as lowering risks for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions. Establishing healthy behaviors in childhood, like daily physical activity and nutritious food choices, promotes a lifetime of healthy habits. As an added bonus, we know that kids who get regular physical activity learn more effectively and achieve more academically - good to know as kids head back to school!

Walking or biking to school is a great way to get more physical activity into a student’s day, but often, there is no safe way for kids to walk or bike to school. Often there are missing bike lanes or sidewalks, or no safe crosswalks on busy streets. And sometimes, rules of the road are unknown or misunderstood, and the confusion causes safety issues. According to the Idaho Transportation Department’s 2014 Crash Report, an Idaho child (4-19 years old) is killed or injured riding a bicycle every 3.5 days and every 4 days walking, by a collision with a motorist.

That is why the American Heart Association is working hard to promote the Safe Routes to School program. We’ve partnered with the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance, Voices for Healthy Kids, and many others. Together we are working to secure funding to provide communities across Idaho the opportunity to obtain grants for infrastructure projects, like building new sidewalks and lighting crosswalks, or non-infrastructure projects, like a Safe Routes Education Coordinator or forming a walking school bus program.

Safe Routes to School are vital to healthy, active kids, and they can be used by the entire community to help improve safety, health, and build a strong community. We hope we can count on your support throughout the year when we ask you to reach out to your state Senator and Representatives and urging them to support Safe Routes to your local school!


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Back-to-School Already? Will You Continue to Support Healthy School Lunches?

Guest Blogger: Nicole Olmstead, Senior Government Relations Director, AZ

August in Arizona brings out the school uniforms, book bags, back packs, and school supplies. Each year we all get lists of what kinds of pencils, crayons, and notebooks to send with our kids to school. But what about the food that we send with them, or the food that is offered to them as part of the School Lunch and Breakfast Program? We are lucky in Arizona that we have a very strong School Lunch and Breakfast program that meets National Nutrition guidelines.


Current standards include reducing sodium, eliminating trans-fat; decreasing saturated fat, minimizing fried foods and offering fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, seafood and low-fat dairy at each meal. Offering nutritious meals during the school day, where most of our children spend the majority their waking hours, is important step to decreasing the next generation’s risk of heart disease and stroke.  Studies show that kids are now choosing healthier foods and are eating 16% more vegetables and 23% more fruit. Children who participate in the National School Lunch Program eat greater amounts of healthy foods, consume less sugar and calories, and have an overall better quality diet


While we are making progress, it is important to contact your Representative and Senators here to urge them to reject efforts to weaken federal guidelines for strong nutrition standards for school meals.


If you are interested in taking your advocacy to the next level, please contact me or Josh Brown, Grassroots Director, for ways you can get involved locally.

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Staying Active in the Heat of Summer

If you’re like me, summer is the best time of the year.  Ample sunshine, longer days, vacations, sporting and music events galore, what’s not to love about summer?  But now that we’ve hit August, being active in the sweltering heat can be more challenging. 


Here are some of tips to staying cool while it’s hot outside:

  • Timing is key: Try to avoid exercising outside in the early afternoon. It’s usually hottest between noon and 3 pm (or 7pm if you’re inland).
  • Hydrate: Drink water before, during and after physical activity, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Dress for success: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes. Moisture-wicking fabric can also be a big help.
  • Listen to your body: Take frequent breaks in the shade, and allow yourself time to adapt to the heat -- some experts say that this can take about 4-14 days. You may not be able to work out as long or as hard as usual when it’s very hot. When it’s too hot, do something active indoors.      
  • Doctor’s orders: Check with your healthcare professional before starting an exercise routine or moving your workout outdoors if you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, other chronic disease or any medical concerns. Healthcare professionals also recommend that certain medications like beta blockers, ace receptor blockers, ace inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics can exaggerate the body’s response to heat.
  • Buddy up: If you can, work out with a partner for safety ... and fun!


For more tips and tricks, visit here.  

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Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice - Start with Blueberries and Help with Policy!

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, all I want to do is snack on fresh Vermont blueberries. Yummy! I put a bowl in the front of our fridge, and every time the door is opened, it’s hard for someone in my family not to grab a handful and pop them in their mouth.

That’s a great example of how a family can make the healthy choice the easy choice. Make what’s healthier easier to do than what is not healthy.

There are many organizations getting on board this simple, but effective strategy. And you can too!

Recently, the Vermont Department of Health launched its 3-4-50 campaign. This highlights that three behaviors are responsible for four diseases that cause fifty percent of the deaths in Vermont. Making healthy choices easier, is a big part of VDH’s plan to combat these chronic diseases. Click on their link to find out more ways that you can make the healthy choice the easy choice.

And make sure you take action on our advocacy issues as well to make healthy choices more accessible to Vermonters. Healthy restaurant kids meals, tobacco prevention funding, raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21 and helping to ensure complete streets that are safe for walkers and bicyclists are some of the issues we’ll be addressing when the legislature returns in January. We’re counting on you to help make the healthy choice the easy choice at home, work and in policies for all!

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New USDA Rules to Improve School Health Environment: What They Are and What You Can Do to Get Involved.

Teaching children healthy eating habits is critical to their long-term health. Parents strive to instill healthy habits at home, and schools have worked hard to improve the nutritional quality of school meals, snacks, and beverages sold in schools. Schools, especially, play a critical role in promoting health and wellness which is the reason why, in an effort to make school environments healthier, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) released regulations concerning local school wellness policies, one of the four final rules that has the potential to create a positive impact on the health and wellness of school aged children.

Each school district that participates in the National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program is required to have a local school wellness policy for all schools under its jurisdiction. Because the policy is established at the local level, it should be used as a tool to guide the school districts efforts in promoting whole child health and wellness as well as meet the unique needs of each school within the community. Under the final rule for local school wellness policies, school districts must:

  • Establish wellness policy leadership who will have the authority and responsibility to ensure each school complies with the policy
  • Encourage participation by the general public including parents, students, food service representatives, teachers, school health professionals, and administrators in the development, review, implementation, and assessment of the policy
  • Review and consider evidence-based strategies in determining specific goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that promote student wellness
  • Include nutritional guidelines for all foods and beverages available for sale on the school campus during the school day within the policy to ensure consistency with federal regulations as well as for other foods and beverages offered during the school day (classroom parties, snacks, or foods given as incentives)
  • Include policies for food and beverage marketing that allow marketing and advertising of only foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards

The American Heart Association has been working with state and local partners to advocate for more comprehensive policies to support healthier school environments. Local advocate support is always needed to not only help bring awareness but to also lend your voice to the fight against unhealthy children in your community.  Want to get involved? Send an email to to sign-up to get helpful tips and ideas on becoming active advocate for change in your community.

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