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Lasting lessons: Sixth-graders keep cholesterol low, stay fit years after taking heart-healthy program

University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center presents results of four-year follow-up at American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions

U-M research from Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, first inset
below, and Nicole Corriveau, second inset below,
shows middle school students continued healthy
exercise habits years after school-based program.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Four years after beginning a school-based heart-healthy lifestyle program, middle school students maintained low cholesterol and spent less time watching TV, according to a study by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center.

The research was presented today at the American Heart Association 2011 Scientific Sessions.

The long-term study shows the sustained benefits of Project Healthy Schools, a program launched at 20 Michigan public schools that’s designed to reduce childhood obesity and improve future health.

“The results are a positive indicator that we can have a lasting impact on children’s health, and provide lessons for living a healthy life in to adulthood,” says cardiologist Elizabeth Jackson, M.D., M.P.H., professor of internal medicine at the U-M Health System.

Project Healthy Schools is a collaborative effort by the U-M Cardiovascular Center and various foundations, community organizations and public schools.

Follow-up data collected from 593 PHS participants four years after the program began shows significant improvement in students’ total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and resting heart rate.

Students also changed their behavior, and spent less time watching TV or playing video games, ate more vegetables, and exercised more – which are part of the key themes taught during Project Healthy Schools.

“By improving cholesterol levels, choosing to eat healthier food and participating in more school-related physical activities, these children are effectively decreasing their risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” says lead researcher Nicole Corriveau.

Corriveau’s presentation was selected as being among the top 10 percent of accepted AHA abstracts this year, after being presented at an earlier AHA conference in May.

Corriveau says that as Project Healthy Schools continues its expansion across mid-Michigan and Detroit, researchers will be able to further evaluate the program’s effects in varying socioeconomic environments.

Additional authors: Roopa Gurm, M.S., Caren S. Goldberg, M.D., Jean DuRussel-Weston, R.N., M.P.H., Taylor Eagle, Shannon Flynn, B.S., Lindsey Gakenheimer, LaVaughn Palma-Davis, M.A., Susan Aaronson, M.A., R.D., Catherine M. Fitzgerald, M.A., R.D., Lindsey R. Mitchell, M.P.H., Bruce Rogers, and Kim A. Eagle, M.D.

Project Healthy Schools was cofounded by Kim A. Eagle, M.D. and LaVaughn Palma-Davis, M.A.

Project Healthy Schools sponsors: Allen Foundation, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation, Atkins Foundation, Borders, Inc., CareSource, Champions for Charity, Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan, Galens Foundation, Glancy Foundation, Googasian Family Foundation, Harvard Drug Group, Hewlett Foundation, Mardigian Foundation, Masco Corporation, NuStep, Pfizer Community, Pfizer Global Research & Development, S.I. Company, LLC., Thompson Foundation, University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, University of Michigan Health System, University of Michigan Medical School

Resources:
Project Healthy Schools, www.projecthealthyschools.org/
U-M Cardiovascular Center, www.med.umich.edu/cvc/

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