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The Beat Goes On

Teaching Kids about Heart Health

Hearts in February bring to mind heart-shaped chocolates, heart-shaped balloons, and paper hearts - all in celebration of Valentine’s Day. But February’s association with hearts goes beyond Valentine’s Day. February is also National Heart Health Month, the perfect time to help students learn how to develop and maintain heart-healthy habits.


Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to prevent heart disease. According to the CDC, “children and adolescents should get 1 hour of physical activity every day.”

  • For some students, participation in sports keeps them active. The American Heart Association recommends annual sports physicals to help identify cardiovascular diseases that could place student athletes at risk.
  • Exercising with others can make physical activity more fun for all students, including those who do not choose to participate in sports. Playing games or taking walks with family or friends can turn a chore into a chance for connection. Consider posting weekly game ideas or challenges for kids to participate in with friends and family members.
  • Learning how to measure heart rates and how to determine resting heart rate, target heart rate, and maximal heart rate does more than help children stay safe when exercising. Understanding how heart rates work is also a way for children to experience for themselves how their heart becomes stronger with physical activity.



Many school nurses incorporate nutrition education into their work with students. Helping students understand how eating healthy meals impacts heart health is another motivator for kids who might otherwise choose less healthy options.

  • Encourage children to ask their parents to involve them in meal choices. By planning meals, shopping and cooking together, children are more likely to feel invested in healthy food choices.
  • Display posters with healthy eating tips.
  • Share simple ideas for healthy snacks that are fun to eat, like frozen grapes, healthy sandwiches cut with cookie cutters, and make-your-own mixes of healthy cereals, dried fruits, and nuts.
  • Learn about the impact of the pandemic on childhood obesity and various tools available to help assess weight issues.


Mental Health

Mental health impacts heart health. Helping students learn healthy self-care habits at a young age can help prevent heart issues associated with mental health problems.

  • Identify when students are experiencing toxic stress. Teach coping strategies to use when experiencing stress. These can include physical activity, talking to a friend, using fidget toys, journaling, and more.
  • Encourage students to limit screen time. According to Children’s Health, “Excessive screen time leads to a sedentary lifestyle and constant snacking, which increases the risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease.”
  • Educate students about resources available to them for their mental health needs, from school nurses and counselors to outside organizations like crisis hotlines.
  • Post positive affirmation messages and share helpful books and other resources.


More National Heart Health Month Activities


Kids are more likely to eat healthy, exercise and practice in self-care if they understand the impact on their health. Teaching children about heart health at a young age gives them an opportunity to develop healthy habits, which makes those habits easier to maintain. National Heart Health Month is a perfect time to revisit heart health with your students.



 “Preparticipation Cardiovascular Screening of Young Competitive Athletes: Policy Guidance.” American Heart Association, June 2012, https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/ahaecc-public/@wcm/@adv/documents/downloadable/ucm_443945.pdf.

“Prevent Heart Disease.” Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/prevention.htm.

 “10 Ways to Keep Your Child’s Heart Healthy.” Children’s Health. https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/10-ways-to-keep-your-childs-heart-healthy

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