Unhealthy teens will likely boost heart disease rates, study finds
By not adopting healthy lifestyles, American teens are putting themselves at risk for heart disease as adults, according to a new study published this week in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
Researchers looked at five years’ worth of data taken from more than 4,600 children ages 12 to 19-years-old, in a variety of cardiovascular categories that included blood pressure, total cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, diet and more. The sampling represented over 33 million adolescents. They were divided equally by gender and included all major ethnic groups,
The children were then ranked as poor, intermediate or ideal in each category. A whopping 80 percent of kids were rated as having a poor diet the study showed. That coupled with less than ideal levels of exercise, puts kids at risk, researchers said.
“The far less-than-optimal physical activity levels and dietary intake of current U.S. teenagers, is translating into obesity and overweight that, in turn, is likely influencing worsening rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and blood glucose at these young ages,” said study leader, Christina M. Shay, of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, in a statement.
The study also showed that one-third of adolescents had total cholesterol levels in intermediate or poor ranges. Less than 50 percent of the adolescents achieved five or more acceptable levels in the measured categories. The one bright spot, researchers said, is the majority of boys and girls had never smoked a cigarette during the time the study was done.
The overall pattern is disturbing and may signal trouble ahead for kids who don’t embrace healthier habits, researchers said. And it’s never too early to start good patterns.
“The status of heart health during childhood has been shown to be a strong predictor of heart health in adulthood,” Shay said. “ Members of the medical and scientific community, parents, teachers and legislators all need to focus their efforts on the prevention and improvement of all aspects of cardiovascular health – particularly optimal physical activity levels and diet — as early in life as possible, beginning at birth.”
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