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Teaching Kids to Make Healthier Choices May Pay Off

FRIDAY, May 13 (HealthDay News) -- A program to boost heart health in students at a middle school in Michigan was so successful that it's being expanded to about 20 middle schools in the state, researchers say.

The objectives of the four-year program included getting the students to:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Eat less fatty foods
  • Choose healthier beverages
  • Get at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week
  • Spend less time in front of the computer and TV

To assess the impact of the program, the researchers collected data from 593 students for four consecutive years. Over that time, average cholesterol levels decreased from 167.39 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) to 149.04 mg/dL; average levels of "bad" low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol fell from 92.02 mg/dL to 85.88 mg/dL; and the average resting heart rate dropped from 81.3 to 78.3 beats a minute.

"This four-year school intervention in Ann Arbor, Mich., was designed to promote healthier lifestyle choices, and it shows that programs like this could have long-term impact on obesity and other health risks," Dr. Elizabeth A. Jackson, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and a co-author of the study, said in a news release from the American Heart Association.

"Such changes may have sustained benefits in terms of reducing incidences of diabetes and cardiovascular disease as the students age," Jackson added.

The findings were to be presented Friday in Chicago at the American Heart Association's Quality of Care and Outcomes Research 2011 Scientific Sessions. Experts note that research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary because it has not been subjected to the rigorous scrutiny given to research published in medical journals.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers health tips for teens.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 13, 2011

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