Starting a heart-healthy routine with your child while they are young creates building blocks for a hearty future. We asked Sam Lee, M.D. a pediatric cardiologist at the Arkansas Children’s Jonesboro Clinic, to share some heart-healthy tips about nutrition, exercise, and sleep for kids. 

How often should children eat fruits and vegetables, and how do I get my kids to eat them?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a helpful website called MyPlate that includes portion recommendations for all food groups based on ages and needs. It also includes games, apps, and activities to help your child learn what to eat and why. 

Generally, half of your child's plate should include fruits and vegetables, and you can be creative. For example, keep apple slices in the fridge for a quick and healthy snack, or grab a blender and add fresh fruit and vegetables for a delicious smoothie. 

Also, parents should limit foods high in:

  • Fats and cholesterol
  • Salt
  • Added sugars
  • Limit sugary beverage to one a day (or none!)

How often should kids exercise? Is playing enough?

One hour. Exercise is important for children because it increases heart rates and builds strong hearts for the future. Exercise also helps reduce stress and anxiety, reduce blood pressure and keeps bones strong. This can include organized sports (games and practice) or outings such as walking, hiking or riding bikes. 

It is always important for children with or without heart disease to talk to your doctor to create a safe diet and exercise plan that works for you and your family. 

Does sleep affect heart health?

Children need more sleep than adults. The amount depends on the child's age, so talk to your doctor if your child is having issues sleeping. Sleep is crucial to health, including heart health. Not having enough sleep can increase blood pressure, increase bad cholesterol and lead to an increased risk of diabetes. 

How do you stay healthy in northeast Arkansas?

Thankfully, Arkansas is known for its outdoor activities. Our staff at ACH Jonesboro Clinic stay active with our families by enjoying northeast Arkansas's outdoor areas.

Patients and families have the opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities, such as walking trails at Craighead Forest Park or Crowley's Ridge Nature Center. There are parks and playgrounds throughout the area and many youth sports programs for all ages.


New and existing patients can visit our appointment hub for several ways to request an appointment, including online scheduling for many services.

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Meet our Expert

Sam Lee, M.D., is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine and a full-time pediatric cardiologist at ACH Jonesboro Clinic.

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