Some local students at two area elementary schools are looking to make a difference in the fight against heart disease and stroke.

Kindergarten through fourth grade students at Shull-David Elementary and Mahoning Elementary are participating in the Jump Rope for Heart program that promotes healthy living while raising money for the American Heart Association.

This week about 500 students from Georgianna Messinger's physical education class will take part in the program. The kids will spend about an hour jumping rope to music and participating in other physical activities. Messinger has been participating in the Jump Rope for Heart program for more than 20 years. The other elementary schools in the Lehighton district have also participated in the program.

Messinger is only the physical education teacher at Shull-David and Mahoning Elementary schools.

Raising money for the American Heart Association is a very worthy cause. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans every year and stroke is ranked third. Many people have been touched by heart disease or stroke at some point in their lives or someone they love. Obesity is also another factor linked to heart disease which not only affects adults but more than 9.2 million adolescents are considered overweight. Many young people today are overfed yet undernourished, eating too much of the wrong food.

The program strives to teach children healthy eating habits through nutritional education. Studies have shown that children that are more active often do better in school. Children who are physically active three to five times a week are less likely to be overweight.

The money raised by the students from Shull-David Elementary and Mahoning Elementary will be used to fund research and programs to help reduce heart disease. Education on the risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke could be used to help improve the health in people of all ages.