Kid’s heart and cardiovascular health falls short
Nathan Batalion, Global Health Activist, Healingtalks Editor
(Healingtalks) Federal data recently revealed a poor picture of American children’s cardiovascular health. The data implies that our teenagers are at risk of increased heart disease compared to their parents.
CDC study of youth cardiovascular health
The study was conducted by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention using a National Health and Nutrition Exam Survey and it looked at children between 12 and 19 years old. The findings were that adolescents performed poorly on seven criteria set by the AHA or the American Heart Association for ideal cardiovascular health.
The Survey has been periodically conducted by the CDC among a nationally sample of Americans to track various health issues. The report, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, is based on an analysis of three different surveys of adolescents aged 12 to 19 between 2003 and 2008 – including a sampling intended to accurately represent minorities. The children in the study included 4,157 kids aged 12 to 17.
Poor nutrition the chief problem
The diets of America’s youth appeared to be strikingly out of whack. Not one of the 5,450 children randomly selected met the minimum standards for a healthy diet!
Otherwise 16.4% of boys and 11.3% of girls were rated ideal on all six other criteria, which included smoking, exercise, weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar.
Growing concern over obesity
The findings come at a time of growing concern about the impacts of obesity and other health risks for children. Recently the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute called for all children between 9 and 11 years old to get a cholesterol tests early on.
The new study took an unusually comprehensive look at the issue.
Based on American Heart Association standards
The results are specific to these AHA standards. Researchers note that the ideal benchmarks in the seven categories have been shown to be associated with reduced risk of heart disease. “Often, we just take an isolated focus on one of the risk factors,” Dr. Lloyd-Jones said. “The package is much more powerful than any single measure.”
Findings as staggering
Veronique Roger, head of health-sciences research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., called the findings “staggering.”
Using the seven criteria for goal-setting
The seven criteria for ideal cardiovascular health are the backbone of a public-health initiative launched by the heart association with a goal to get just 20% of all American adults within optimal range on all seven measures.
Processes that lead to heart disease tend to begin in childhood
The focus on children reflects an awareness that while cardiovascular disease typically strikes later in life, the biological processes begin in childhood. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said some studies indicate that “by six months, you can already see a worsening of cholesterol and blood pressure” because of diet and other factors.
Kids best performances
In the survey kids performed best for blood pressure (more than 90% in the ideal range) and for not smoking, (80% of those 17 and under had never smoked). The later performance fell to 60% to 70% for those 18 and 19 – reflecting legalized sales of tobacco for people 18 and older.
Flunking on diet
The worst performance was again diet. Not a single adolescent met any of the targets in five different nutrition categories:
- 4½ servings or more of fruits and vegetables a day
- Three whole-grain servings a day
- Two or more servings of fish a week
- Less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily
- Less than 36 ounces of sugar-sweetened drinks a week.
Indeed, only about 20% of the adolescents met recommendations on two or three of the nutrition factors—considered an intermediate score.
For exercise, 50% of boys and 60% of girls didn’t regularly exercise for more than 60 minutes a day. Between 10% and 20% reported getting no exercise.
Cholesterol and Weight
About 30% to 45% had less-than-ideal cholesterol, while about one-third were either overweight or obese.
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