Most US Children Do Not Have Ideal Heart Health, Says Study

Posted: Aug 14 2016, 2:15pm CDT | by , Updated: Aug 15 2016, 10:25pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Most US Children Do Not Have Ideal Heart Health, Says Study
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American Heart Association says nearly 91 percent of children in the United States do not meet the standards of ideal heart health.

A healthy heart in childhood can lead to a healthy life in later years, yet many children do not have ideal heart health. According to new research, most children in the United States do not meet the basic standards for good heart health set by the American Heart Association and that’s concerning.

There are seven basic factors that determine whether a child’s heart is in ideal condition and they include having a healthy body weight, getting enough physical activity, not using tobacco products and eating a healthy diet that helps maintain healthy cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Lacking one or two can result in poor heart health. Surprisingly, only 1 percent of children were found to meet the organization’s criteria of ideal cardiovascular health. 

Research suggests that unhealthy diet is the biggest contributor to this trend. The other major factor is lack of physical activity which increases the chances of being overweight.

“A primary reason for so few children having ideal cardiovascular health is poor nutrition - children are eating high-calorie, low-nutrition foods and not eating enough healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, fish and other foods strongly associated with good heart health and a healthy body weight.” Lead author Dr Julia Steinberger, director pediatric cardiology at University of Minnesota said.

For the study, researchers examined the data from 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Nearly 91 of the studied children scored poorly on heart health measures. Most of the children age 2 to 19 were getting the bulk of their daily calorie quota from sugary desserts and beverages not from the healthy food. Moreover, they were not getting physical activity to improve their hearth health. The findings show that in kids ages 6 to 11, just half of the boys and more than a third of girls got the recommended 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. The amount of physical activity decreased even further as they get older.

The lethal combination of poor diet and physical inactivity eventually affected body weight. Among 2 to 5 year olds, about 10 percent were considered obese on the basis of their body mass index (BMI) while obesity rate continue to increase in subsequent years.

Not surprisingly, these behaviors had an impact on heart health markers too like blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. But the situation can be reversed if children follow a healthy lifestyle and quite bad habits or replace them with better ones.

“Instead of taking a wait-and-see approach by treating disease later in adulthood, we should help children maintain the standards of ideal cardiovascular health that most children are born with," said Steinberger. 

“Engaging in these ideal health behaviors early in life can have a tremendous benefit on maintaining ideal health throughout the lifespan.”

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The Author

Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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