Talking to Kids About Heart Health


Happy American Heart Month

About two years ago I made a slight career path change. I went from making and testing pharmaceutical products to working in a lab that helps to invent those products. I currently work in cardiovascular research at the USC School of Medicine with several leading researchers in the cardiovascular field. It’s challenging and rewarding, but also sad sometimes – I wish this disease didn’t exist and I didn’t even have to research it.  

The statistics surrounding heart disease in the US, and especially in South Carolina, will shock you. I’m not talking about the heart disease that can’t be prevented (i.e. congenital heart defects or genetic issues), I’m talking about the preventable heart disease. The one that is caused by our love of fast food and stationary lifestyle. 

Now, I know as moms we do our best to make sure our kids eat good foods and get good sleep and get outside and move their bodies. But I want us to include informing our kids about why these things are so important as well. I think when we address the “why,” we set our kids up for a better understanding of health. Then, as they grow older and more independent, they can make these heart healthy decisions on their own. Parenting win!

So, I’ll stage a few basic questions with answers (kid friendly language) breaking down why your heart and heart health are important. I’ll also provide some resources and links so you can interact with your child and continue this conversation and learning.

1. What does your heart do?

The heart is a big organ in your body make up of lots of muscle. It works with your lungs to carry blood and oxygen throughout your body. It keeps our arms and legs moving and our brain thinking Our blood carries all the nutrients our bodies need to keep going, so if it’s not pumping right, it can hurt the rest of our body.

2. How does what you eat affect your heart?

Our bodies need lots of different nutrients to stay healthy. When we eat too many sugary or fatty foods, we make our heart and all the areas around it work harder than it needs to. Over time, our heart can get tired of working too hard and it starts to make other parts of our body hurt. Plus, it can make it hard to breath. It’s OK to eat candy or french fries every now and then, but it’s all about moderation. The majority of our diet should include good amounts of fruits, veggies, and fiber. Check out this cool experiment on how the heart actually pumps blood.

3. How does activity affect your heart?

The heart is mostly made of muscle. We need to make that muscle work to get stronger. The stronger it is, the easier it is for it to pump effectively. We have to let our heart get stronger and better by doing physical activity. At least 60 minutes a day is ideal and you can do anything: run, play basketball, ride a bike, or play tag. It all counts!

4. What else can I do to keep my heart healthy?

Besides being active and eating as healthy as you can, you can also be sure you have annual check ups with your doctor.  They can track any changes from year to year to help keep your heart and the rest of your body healthy.  

We like to go to our local park with our dog and walk around to keep our hearts healthy!

Parents: For more information, read the American Heart Association’s goals for cardiovascular health promotion in children.

I hope this helps you start a conversation with your kids about heart health. I highly encourage you to make this a family affair as us moms need to keep our hearts healthy, too!

What heart healthy practices do you have with your children and family? How have you encouraged open dialogue about being heart healthy?


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Lisa Freeburg
Lisa is a transplant from the Midwest. She was born and raised in Kansas (yes, she has seen a tornado) and spent a few years in Ohio before moving to South Carolina in 2014. She holds a degree in Biology and works as a research assistant at the USC School of Medicine. Her career in science spans 11 years and she can't imagine a job anywhere else. She has also been married to her college sweetheart for 11 years. He is a professor at USC, so they are Gamecock fans by default. They are proud parents to a spunky 2.5 year old girl who keeps them on their toes. As a family, they enjoy being outside in the wonderful southern sun, gardening, playing tennis, and going to the beach. They also are parents to 2 fur babies who still aren't sure about their little sister.


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